Breast Reconstruction

Options after treatment for breast cancer.

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Surgeons performing breast reconstruction

What you need to know

Cosmetic breast reconstruction can help women recover from breast cancer psychologically as well as physically. The type of reconstruction depends on the type of treatment that was required for your breast cancer as well as your preferences. Some women choose not to have reconstruction.

Regardless of how your cancer was treated, federal law requires that insurance companies pay for all or part of the cost of breast reconstruction after a mastectomy. This includes any surgery required on the opposite breast for symmetry (to help both sides look even).

There are many options for breast reconstruction. Breasts can be rebuilt using implants (both saline or silicone) or from autologous tissue (tissue from elsewhere in the body). Sometimes both tissue and implants can be used together. Surgery can be done at the time of the mastectomy or later.

You will discuss your options with your doctor and together make a plan that’s right for you.

After breast-conserving surgery

Some breast cancer can be treated with breast-conserving surgery, also called lumpectomy, partial mastectomy or quadrantectomy. This surgery or radiation treatment can often leave the breast misshapen. Oncoplastic surgery reshapes the breast for symmetry and to restore natural look and shape. 


After mastectomy 

Some women need to have, or choose to have a mastectomy. This is the removal of all the breast tissue. Breast reconstructive surgery is the procedure of rebuilding a total breast after mastectomy. The nipple can also be reconstructed.

The two types of breast reconstruction are:

  • The use of gel or saline implants
  • The use of “flaps” (such as DIEP flaps) created by using your own fat and skin tissue to rebuild the breast

Guiding your options 

Your breast surgical oncologist and your reconstructive plastic surgeon will help you decide which option is best for you:

  • Simultaneous breast reconstruction is immediate reconstruction at the same time as a mastectomy; for women who do not need radiation therapy.
  • Staged breast reconstruction: Women who need radiation therapy may be advised to have staged breast reconstruction, meaning it is done in more than one procedure. At the time of mastectomy, we insert a  tissue expander to keep the breast skin stretched and flexible. This step helps prepare for the final reconstruction, which is done several months after radiation is completed.
  • Delayed breast reconstruction is reconstruction months or even years after breast cancer treatment ends.

Compare the different types of breast reconstruction options.


Working together for you

Our cancer experts work together with a common goal: delivering the right care for you. A range of specialists collaborate regularly in meetings called tumor boards to discuss the best plan for your care. Your treatment plan is made just for you, depending on your general health, your age, your particular cancer and its growth.

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