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Breast Reconstruction

Preparing for breast reconstruction surgery

When contemplating breast reconstruction after a mastectomy, many factors should enter into your decision:

  • Give yourself time. This is not a decision to be made lightly. Breast reconstruction can begin during the same surgery as the mastectomy or it can take place years later. You've just made many important decisions about your health following your breast cancer diagnosis, and you may not yet be ready to make one more choice.
  • Research the different methods of breast reconstruction. Your oncologist can give you books or videos about reconstruction. It's also very easy to find information about reconstruction on the Internet. You can find sites that show before-and-after pictures of women who have undergone reconstruction, which can be very helpful. Be sure the information you get is reputable. The Mayo Clinic website is a good place to start.
  • Do you have insurance and, if so, what portion of the procedure will your policy cover? Breast reconstruction can be a lengthy and costly process. You need answers to these questions before you embark on the reconstruction process.
  • Ask your health care professionals and friends to recommend plastic surgeons. Other survivors can be forthcoming and informative about their procedures and the doctors who performed them.
  • Have a consultation with your chosen plastic surgeon so you can get an overall impression of her or him. It's very important to trust and respect your doctor.
  • Stop smoking (or any other unhealthy vices you have). Anyone who smokes is at greater risk for surgical complications. You will want the odds stacked in your favor for a successful surgery.
  • Adopt a healthy diet. Healthy surgical patients will get the best results and have shorter recovery periods. It could be the beginning of better health for the rest of your life.
  • Ask your doctor which drugs to avoid during the pre-surgery period. Some prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs, for example, can cause bleeding and may need to be discontinued for a time.
  • Ask questions! Ask about what to expect post-surgery in terms of complications, recovery time, scars and long-term effects of the procedure. The sooner you ask these questions, the better.

By Cindy Viesselman

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