If the first stage of a mastectomy (or indeed a lumpectomy in many cases), is to surgically dismantle the breast then it follows that the second stage is to reconstruct it again. Or is it?
The decision to reconstruct is a complex and deeply individual one with many factors to consider.
There are various options available for breast reconstructive surgery, some of which start during mastectomy and can include additional procedures post mastectomy.
Viability for surgery most often depends on a patient’s type of cancer and treatment plan or even the side effects of a patient’s treatment. But it also depends on her circumstances. A women’s entire breast reconstruction surgery is not always covered by medical aids in South Africa and can be an expensive and lengthy process.
Some women don’t feel they can face more surgery.
Some feel guilty for putting their families and possibly employers through another period of lessened productivity and recuperation.
Others are sure that reconstruction is the clear path for them, and involve a plastic surgeon from the first talk of surgery.
Sure or unsure, many women are surprised to find appointments with plastic surgeons and discussions around reconstruction to be intimate and discomforting. Some say they were able to talk about their breasts quite objectively while undergoing treatment, but discussing the size and shape of their new nipples with a surgeon feels much more personal.
Many are stumped by the question: ‘How would you like your new breasts to look?’
‘Like they did before,’ is generally the most common answer.
And possibly this is the biggest factor to consider. Are we doing it because we want to reconstruct the ‘Before’? Will straightening the furniture and re-hanging the drapes help us forget an earthquake passed through?
Will new breasts help us heal?
Have you had reconstruction? Decided against it? We’d love to hear your views.
Later this month we will tell the story of someone who chose reconstruction. Would you like us to tell the story of your choice? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.