Being faced with decision making about mastectomy and reconstruction can be overwhelming. Not only are you dealing with a cancer diagnosis, but you are also being asked to make tough decisions about treatment, all in a short space of time.
Too much information can be overwhelming and make it harder to make decisions. It can be helpful at this time to access the support of a breast care nurse or other health professional to help you make sense of the information you have.
After mastectomy, you may decide to:
- Have a breast reconstruction at the same time
- Not have a breast reconstruction and be ‘breast free’
- Not have a reconstruction and opt for an artificial type of breast (that creates the shape of a breast under your clothes), such as a breast prosthesis
- Have a reconstruction at some later time after the mastectomy.
Women make their choices based on a range of reasons. Some women, for example:
- Are concerned about the risks of additional surgery, or the associated pain and recovery process
- Have other medical issues that make reconstruction inadvisable
- Have a range of other personal reasons not to have a reconstruction or to delay reconstruction.
You may also want to include your partner in the decision making process. Some women are concerned about how their partner might react to their decision. Talking openly with your partner about how you feel about the different options may help. The resources in the Sexuality and Intimacy topic can help in these conversations.
The discussion about whether to have a reconstruction or not, must take place between you, the surgeon, and the plastic surgeon before your mastectomy. Keep in mind that not all kinds of reconstruction are suitable for everyone. You will need to discuss your individual options with your surgeon.
It may be possible that reconstructive surgery can take place at the same time as your mastectomy. If this is not possible, you should talk to your surgeon about what options are available to you.
If you choose reconstruction, it’s important to have an understanding of what’s involved in the different reconstruction procedures – there are resources in this topic that outline the different types of reconstruction procedures.
It is also important to have realistic expectations about how your breast might look afterwards. Many women are satisfied with their reconstruction, while some have regrets. This may be related to unrealistic expectations of the reconstruction, or from complications that may arise.
The purpose of this navigator is to guide you to information about the different options available to you after you have a mastectomy. It does not constitute an endorsement of the information contained in the resources. This information is not meant to be a replacement for consultations with and recommendations from your treating team, but rather to provide a starting point to information seeking. If you are unsure about anything, you should always consult your health professional team