Implant Breast Reconstruction Surgery After Cancer

Published: October 15, 2020
Category: Dr. Christine Stewart, Breast Reconstruction

breast implant reconstruction surgery patient

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the United States after skin cancer. Each year, over 250,000 American women are diagnosed with breast cancer, roughly 1 in 8 women. Almost half of these women choose to have mastectomy surgery. Of these women, about 40 percent elect to have breast reconstruction surgery following their mastectomy (Federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality). When appropriate, Implant Breast Reconstruction Surgery can help restore the shape of a woman’s breast and elevate her level of confidence as she embraces life after breast cancer.


“Breast Reconstruction Surgery is a very personal choice with many considerations, both physical and emotional,” explains Dr. Christine Stewart, a board-certified Plastic Surgeon with Edina Plastic Surgery. “Women have the option to go breast-free after their mastectomy, use a breast prosthesis, or even elect to have reconstruction surgery further down the road. But, it is important to note that Breast Reconstruction Surgery performed at the time of your mastectomy generally produces better cosmetic results.  Single stage reconstruction is also a nickname for immediate reconstruction, but that is generally a misnomer.  When starting the journey of breast reconstruction, it is important for women to know that they will most likely than not have to undergo multiple procedures to produce their final result.”

What Types of Breast Reconstruction Surgeries Are Available?

Breast Reconstruction Surgery has two main categories, implant reconstruction and autologous, or “flap” reconstruction. Implant reconstruction uses a saline or silicone implant to restore the breast’s shape and volume after a mastectomy. Flap reconstruction utilizes tissue from another area of your body to recreate the form of your breast. In some cases, a Plastic Surgeon will incorporate both of these options during a reconstruction.

Implant Breast Reconstruction Surgery


“With Implant Breast Reconstruction Surgery, a saline or silicone-filled breast implant is inserted either beneath or in front of the pectoral muscle,” says Dr. Stewart. “The implant will be supported by an internal bra built by using a cellular dermal matrix. This is either cadaver skin or porcine skin that has been processed and sterilized so that your body does not reject it.  This matrix helps support the implant and protect the skin of the breast, which may be compromised and fragile after mastectomy.”

As Dr. Stewart stated prior, Implant Breast Reconstruction is best when performed at the time of your mastectomy surgery. This is especially true for women who do not require the removal of extensive breast skin and would like to be a size similar to what they were before mastectomy. Combining both surgeries negates the need for “tissue expanders” because the implant is immediately positioned under the skin of the breast or muscle.  This is known as direct to implant reconstruction.  There are reasons that implants are placed underneath the muscle versus under the skin.  Placement under the skin is more common now because it causes less post-operative (and long term) pain and avoids problems like animation deformity.  Some patient who have a tumor located next to the pectoralis major muscle are not a candidate for pre-pectoral implant placement.

“Women who have mastectomy surgery without Breast Reconstruction Surgery (delayed reconstruction) either have a substantial amount of breast skin removed along with their breast tissue or their skin contract down over time, requiring a tissue expander to re-expand it,” explains Dr. Stewart. 

Expanders are  implants whose size your surgeon can progressively increase over time with saline to stretch the breast’s skin to accommodate an eventual implant. This process can be painful, although less so with prepectoral reconstruction compared to subpectoral reconstruction.  

Benefits of Implant Breast Reconstruction Surgery

  • Restores the volume, shape, and contour of your breast after mastectomy surgery.
  • Ensures symmetry between your breasts after mastectomy surgery.
  • Eliminates the inconvenience of wearing a daily breast prosthesis.
  • Reconstructs the breast without having surgery on another part of the body.

“Many women say that having Implant Breast Reconstruction Surgery helped them emotionally move on from cancer by erasing the physical reminder of their disease. This surgery can significantly improve a woman’s self-esteem, which I think is very important after battling cancer. Although it’s true that the sensation and appearance of the breast will never be 100% the same as it was before, having the shape of the breast restored can give women a sense of normalcy and confidence,” shares Dr. Stewart.

Recovery After Implant Breast Reconstruction Surgery

Recovery after surgery is different for every woman. It is common to be sore and tired for several weeks, and your movements and activities will be heavily restricted as you heal. Most women can resume normal daily activities around 6-8 weeks, but it may take over a year before you feel completely recovered.

“Talking to other women who have undergone Breast Reconstruction Surgery is really beneficial for women considering their options after mastectomy,” advises Dr. Stewart. “There are several online discussion forums for women who have had or are considering Breast Reconstruction Surgery, and credible resources such as Your surgeon can walk you through each procedure and give you the sense of empowerment that comes from being educated and knowledgeable about your options. Still, nothing compares to hearing from another woman who has taken this journey herself. That sense of sisterhood and community can be pivotal to a woman’s decision-making and healing process.

As a surgeon who performs Breast Reconstruction Surgery, I am continuously impressed, moved, and inspired by the incredible strength and courage of the women I treat. It is an absolute honor to partner with a woman who is reclaiming her life after cancer.”

Are you considering your options after mastectomy surgery and would like to discuss Breast Reconstruction Surgery with Dr. Christine Stewart? Schedule a consultation by calling (612)-688-3177 or by clicking here.

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