Should You Have Breast Augmentation After A Mastectomy?

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If you've recently undergone mastectomy surgery, you may feel as though the last few months have been a whirlwind of bad news and tough decisions. And while the choice to have a mastectomy is often driven by medical factors that leave you without many other options, the choice to have breast augmentation or reconstruction surgery after your mastectomy is a far more elective one, with deciding factors personal to each cancer survivor. Read on to learn more about the factors you'll want to consider when investigating your augmentation options.

Is post-mastectomy augmentation safe?

In a mastectomy, surgeons will carefully remove not only any tumors or cancerous tissue, but any other breast tissue that could potentially develop cancer later. This can actually make augmentation a simpler process than it is for women who already have all their breast tissue; instead of having to fit the implant into the existing tissue (and skin), surgeons can simply shape and fill the implant to perfectly match your old breasts, or perhaps send you up a cup size or two if you weren't completely satisfied with your pre-mastectomy breasts.

Breast augmentation is one of the most common surgical procedures performed, and there are a number of plastic and reconstructive surgeons who specialize in post-mastectomy augmentations. While any surgical procedure that requires you to go under general anesthesia carries some risk, augmentation (even post-mastectomy augmentation) is no more inherently dangerous than any other type of cosmetic procedure, as long as your oncologist has given you the go-ahead to proceed. 

How long will you need to wait after your mastectomy to have augmentation surgery?

Although living without breasts for an extended period of time before seeking reconstructive surgery can seem like it's adding insult to injury, it's important to ensure that you're in good enough shape to undergo this surgery before proceeding. Implanting saline or silicone breasts into a body that has been weakened by chemotherapy and radiation can increase your risk of rejecting the implants or facing other complications that can slow your recovery. By waiting until you've healed from cancer treatments, you'll be able to significantly minimize your odds of any bumps in the road on the path to your new and improved breasts.

The length of time between mastectomy and reconstruction can vary, and your oncologist and cosmetic surgeon are always the best professionals to provide you with an individualized opinion, but in general, you'll want to wait 6 to 12 months after your mastectomy if you've had any additional cancer treatment. If your mastectomy was prophylactic instead, you can opt for immediate reconstruction performed at the same time as your mastectomy.

Will your health insurance pay for this type of augmentation?

In most cases, breast augmentation is considered an elective cosmetic procedure and won't be covered by most health insurance policies. However, post-mastectomy augmentation is classified as reconstructive surgery and may be covered by your health insurance to the same extent as your other cancer-related treatments. Before seeking this surgery, you'll want to obtain the necessary pre-approvals from your insurance company to ensure you're not surprised with a hefty bill after the procedure has already taken place. 

Could augmentation complicate future cancer treatments?

If your cancer has been eradicated but your odds of reoccurrence are higher than you'd like, you may be concerned that having your breasts reconstructed could complicate future breast cancer treatments. However, once your reconstruction is complete and you've fully recovered from the surgery, you're unlikely to face any more complications when seeking future cancer treatment than women without breast implants. Indeed, the way each implant spreads your breast skin and remaining tissue can actually make mammograms and CT scans easier, providing doctors with a clearer view.

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