Any breast cancer patient will tell you the first time they received the diagnosis of breast cancer their world literally stopped. The spectre of potentially having a mastectomy and losing their feminine identity is overwhelming.
If you have received this unfortunate news it is time to remember you have family and friends to support you and medical options to restore your womanhood.
Truth is – there is hope and a future!
Dr Slabbert and his dedicated team have many years experience helping women navigate this very difficult journey. You may just have got the diagnosis or are undergoing cancer treatment but be comforted knowing you can get through it. With the breast reconstructive surgery options available you can get back to feeling whole again. You will be able to regain your confidence and wear flattering clothes once again.
Breast reconstruction very often includes a number of separate surgical procedures which can begin when the mastectomy is performed or delayed for a period of time.
Typically, there are generally two reconstruction methods Dr Slabbert will use to restore your breast:
The choice of which method is ideal for you will depend on the type of mastectomy you had, if you have had any form of cancer treatments and lastly, your body type.
Dr Slabbert will take time carefully explaining all the various surgical procedures and options available to you to achieve the best results. You will find he has a caring and compassionate manner.
There are two techniques as mentioned above:
Implant Reconstruction begins with the insertion of a tissue expander which is filled with saline solution. Over several weeks, this will effectively stretch your chest tissue and skin to create the shape of a breast. Once the desired shape is achieved, Dr Slabbert will commence with a surgical procedure similar to having a breast augmentation operation. He will remove the expander and replace it with a silicone implant (see more detail on this page).
Flap Reconstruction involves Dr Slabbert first harvesting a healthy flap of tissue from your back (known as a latissimus dorsi flap). This is then carefully relocated through a tunnel under your armpit onto your chest area. He will then use this flap to “sculpt” it into the shape of a breast.
Often, in cases where a larger breast is desired, or to achieve the correct shape, an implant will be placed into the breast. Once Dr Slabbert is satisfied with the reconstruction, he will proceed to suture and close up the incisions.
In both of the techniques described, Dr Slabbert will perform your surgery in phases: first to reconstruct the breast or insert implants and the second to create the nipples.
The procedure lasts between 3 and 4 hours and requires a general anaesthetic.
You will in effect have had two surgical procedures (one to your chest and one to your back). In addition, you may have also undergone axillary node dissection, whereby lymph nodes are removed through an incision under the arm. It is important that you prepare yourself for a hospital stay of about 4 days after flap surgery.
Dr Slabbert’s nursing team will ensure that you are comfortable and will give you comprehensive wound care advice. Pain medication will be prescribed to manage pain.
The first 24 to 72 hours will be the most uncomfortable. Recovery from this type of surgery takes about 4 weeks. During this time, be sure to avoid strenuous exercise, sexual activity or lifting heavy objects. You will have an incision on your back to care for so you will also need to arrange help with that. Prevention of infection is very important.
Dr Slabbert will be able to recommend a breast cancer physical therapist to ensure that the range of motion in your shoulder is strengthened and maintained.
About 3 to 4 months after your breast(s) have had time to recover from breast reconstruction surgery, there may be a need to have your nipple(s) reconstructed (in certain cases, the nipple may only need to be repositioned).
Nipple construction may be performed using skin surrounding the nipple site or from another section of your body e.g. the thigh. The tissue will be shaped and elevated to resemble a natural nipple.
After some time, you may wish to have a nipple tattoo done whether you have your nipple reconstructed or not. 3D nipple tattoos are a possible option, and look very realistic.
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