Reconstruction of a breast that has been removed due to cancer or other disease is one of the most rewarding surgical procedures available today. New medical techniques and devices have made it possible for surgeons to create a breast that can come close in form and appearance to matching a natural breast. Frequently, reconstruction is possible immediately following breast removal (mastectomy), so the patient wakes up with a breast mound already in place, having been spared the experience of seeing herself with no breast at all.

Breast reconstruction may require 2 or more operations depending on the extent of surgery involved and the accuracy required to try to match the breasts. For reconstruction to be complete, the nipple and areola must be replaced, although some patients are satisfied simply to have the general breast contour restored.

Surgery takes from 1 to 6 hours and is performed under local or general anesthesia. A hospital stay can be 1 to 5 days. Postoperative discomfort varies. The sutures dissolve and the dressings are removed in one week.

The most common problem following breast reconstruction is the formation of scar tissue around the implant, if used, imparting a hard feeling to the breast. This condition occurs because the scar tissue surrounds the implant like a shell, compressing the prosthesis. Another possible complication is infection, resulting in rejection of the implant or the transferred tissue. Theoretically, there is a possibility that this surgery may hide a local recurrence of the original tumor and prevent detection.

But bear in mind, post-mastectomy breast reconstruction is not a simple procedure. There are often many options to consider as you and Dr. Byun explore what's best for you.