Skip to Content

Before Breast Reconstruction


Breast reconstruction

is surgery to rebuild one or both breasts. Breast reconstruction may be done if you have had all or part of your breast removed. Breast reconstruction may be done at the same time as a mastectomy or in a separate surgery. The nipple and areola (darker tissue around the nipple) can also be rebuilt.

Immediate breast reconstruction:

You may be able to have breast reconstruction at the same time that you have a mastectomy. A surgeon will remove your breast tissue and cancer. Then, a plastic surgeon will create new breasts. Ask your healthcare provider if you can have breast reconstruction at the same time as your mastectomy.

Delayed breast reconstruction:

Your healthcare provider may discuss with you your option to delay breast reconstruction. He may discuss waiting until you have healed from a mastectomy. He may also discuss waiting until after you have radiation or chemotherapy. Talk to your healthcare provider about waiting to have breast reconstruction.

Types of breast reconstruction:

Your options for surgery may depend on your health conditions, age, body type, and what you expect from surgery. The goals of breast reconstruction are to create breasts that are the same size and as natural looking as possible. If only one breast will be reconstructed, the goal is to match the size and shape of your other breast. Talk to your plastic surgeon about the risks and benefits of each type of surgery.

  • Implant reconstruction uses saline implants, silicone gel implants, or a combination, to reconstruct the breast. You may need to have a tissue expander, or balloon like sac, placed in each breast before an implant is placed. Expanders are slowly filled with saline over 2 to 3 months. This helps stretch the tissue and make room for an implant. The expander may be removed in a later surgery and replaced with an implant.
  • Autologous or flap reconstruction uses tissue from another part of your body to reconstruct the breast. The tissue may be removed from your abdomen, thigh, back, or buttocks. The tissue may contain blood vessels, fat, or muscle. This type of surgery may also use an implant.

Nipple and areola reconstruction:

You can choose to have nipple and areola reconstruction. This may be done after your breast heals from the first stage of reconstruction. Talk to your healthcare provider about your options.

Discuss with your healthcare provider:

Learn as much as you can about breast reconstruction before you have surgery. Breast reconstruction is usually performed by a plastic surgeon. The following is a list of important things to discuss with your plastic surgeon:

  • What your goals or expectations are for breast reconstruction
  • When your surgery will be done
  • What you can expect after surgery
  • What the follow up plan is after surgery, such as tests or other surgeries you may need

Do not smoke:

Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can cause lung damage. They can also cause poor healing and increase your risk for infection after surgery. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.

Plan for your surgery:

You may stay in the hospital for several days after your surgery. Arrange for someone to drive you home from the hospital and stay with you. You will not be able to drive or lift anything heavy for several days to weeks. Ask your healthcare provider when you can return to work and your normal activities.

For support and more information:

  • American Cancer Society
    250 Williams Street
    Atlanta , GA 30303
    Phone: 1- 800 - 227-2345
    Web Address:
  • Reach to Recovery
    Phone: 1- 800 - 227-2345
    Web Address:

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

© 2016 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.