All about breast reconstruction in Asheville, NC
For many women, breast reconstruction represents a conclusion to a difficult journey. However, even this more positive aspect of breast cancer treatment can be a little overwhelming. When should you have reconstruction? What options are available to restore a more natural breast appearance?
Whether you have recently received a breast cancer diagnosis and are just beginning your research about mastectomy and breast reconstruction, or you have already had one or both breasts removed, Dr. Conway and our Asheville plastic surgery team can help you understand your options. Our priority is to make sure you feel well informed to make an appropriate decision for yourself.
Choosing Dr. Conway for your breast reconstruction
Dr. Donald Conway is board certified in plastic surgery and has more than 20 years of experience performing reconstructive and cosmetic breast procedures. Prior to becoming a plastic surgeon, he earned a Master’s degree as a medical illustrator. This specialized training helped Dr. Conway develop an in-depth knowledge of anatomy and a keen sense of proportion and symmetry that he applies to his surgical technique.
In addition to his surgical training and experience, Dr. Conway is well known for providing exceptional patient care. He understands that undergoing breast cancer treatment is a stressful time in a woman’s life, and he gives each patient the time and attention she needs to feel informed and confident throughout the breast reconstruction process.
Breast reconstruction surgery options
There are many different surgical techniques for breast reconstruction. When determining the best approach for a patient, Dr. Conway considers a number of factors, including:
- Whether or not the patient has already had a mastectomy
- How much tissue has been removed
- Whether or not a patient wishes to get breast implants
- What the oncology team and Dr. Conway agree is a good option for an individual
Dr. Conway performs two different types of breast reconstruction for patients in Asheville, NC. One involves breast implants while the other recreates a breast shape using a patient’s own tissue. Dr. Conway can also perform a breast augmentation, breast lift, or breast reduction to the opposite-side breast to achieve the most natural shape and symmetry possible.
Implant Reconstruction with Tissue Expanders
Many women choose to have reconstruction using breast implants. Instead of using tissue from a donor area of the body, implant reconstruction uses an expandable temporary implant to create a space in the reconstructed breast, which is later replaced with a saline or silicone breast implant.
The initial surgery to place the tissue expander may take place immediately after mastectomy or at a later date. A delayed reconstruction is often required if you are undergoing radiation therapy after mastectomy. The procedure is followed by a series of in-office appointments with Dr. Conway to have saline solution periodically added to the expander. This gradually stretches the surrounding tissue. When this process is complete, you will undergo a second, less extensive surgery to exchange the tissue expander for a saline or silicone breast implant.
Implant reconstruction has several advantages that make it a good choice for many women:
- Reconstruction may be able to take place immediately following mastectomy
- Surgery does not affect muscle or skin in other areas of the body
- Implants can help to achieve a beautiful symmetry and shape
As you can see, implant reconstruction requires multiple steps and multiple visits to Dr. Conway’s office. Recovery after the initial surgery can require up to 6 weeks away from many activities, especially if you are also recovering from mastectomy at the same time. However, the end result can be a beautiful, natural-looking breast shape with the implants of your choice.
Latissimus Flap Reconstruction
A latissimus flap reconstruction is considered an “autologous” tissue procedure: your own tissue is used to construct a new breast mound. During the procedure, Dr. Conway will remove a portion of skin, muscle, and fat from the upper back along the latissimus dorsi muscle, located just behind the armpit and below the shoulder blade. This tissue is moved around to the front of the chest to create a breast mound.
Latissimus flap reconstruction has been used safely and successfully for decades and remains one of a commonly performed techniques today for a number of reasons:
- The tissue remains connected to its original blood supply, reducing risk of tissue failure and other complications
- It provides an option for women with smaller breasts to achieve a natural-looking appearance without implants
- If an implant is to be placed, a latissimus flap provides good implant coverage
- If no tissue expansion is needed, a latissimus flap procedure can achieve breast reconstruction in one operation
Because latissimus flap reconstruction is usually done in a single procedure, there is only one recovery time. Typically, the procedure requires about 4 weeks to recover before you are ready for anything more than very light activity, and you may experience some loss in strength and function in your latissimus muscle group after this procedure. If you are an avid swimmer, golfer, or tennis player, Dr. Conway may talk to you about implant reconstruction as a possible alternative.
Breast reconstruction and your rights
The Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act of 1998 guarantees certain rights to women diagnosed with breast cancer in the U.S. You have a right to receive information about breast reconstruction as part of your treatment protocol. Additionally, this law requires group health insurance plans to cover breast reconstruction after mastectomy, and an insurance plan may not deny you coverage to avoid covering mastectomy or breast reconstruction.
In North Carolina, insurance plans are also required to cover reconstructive surgery to a non-diseased breast if surgery is needed to achieve symmetry or restore a more normal breast appearance. If you have any questions about breast reconstruction and insurance, please contact us.
If you would like to learn more about breast reconstruction surgery in Asheville, or would like to schedule a consultation with Dr. Donald Conway, please contact us. We will be happy to help you any way we can.