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BreastFree Deciding NOT to Reconstruct

Deciding NOT to Reconstruct

The Choices for Women Facing Mastectomy Surgery

For most women, a diagnosis of breast cancer brings shock and anxiety. If a woman then learns she needs a mastectomy to adequately treat her cancer, she may feel traumatized by the prospect of losing her breast. In the midst of this stress, she must decide whether or not to have immediate reconstruction, that is, reconstruction done at the same time as the mastectomy.

Immediate Reconstruction

Increasingly, doctors are steering their patients toward this option, since both procedures (mastectomy and reconstruction) can be done during a single surgery. But there are drawbacks to this approach.

Given these drawbacks, some women prefer not to have immediate reconstruction. Instead, some opt to delay their reconstruction, while others choose not to pursue reconstruction at all.

Delayed Reconstruction

If a woman decides to delay reconstruction, her breast surgeon can perform a skin-sparing mastectomy, leaving breast skin behind while removing the breast tissue underneath. With a skin-sparing mastectomy, reconstruction can easily be performed later. In the meantime, the patient can focus on battling her cancer without worrying about possible complications from reconstruction. For women who choose not to have immediate reconstruction, the surgery time is shorter and the healing time generally faster. Delayed reconstruction gives a woman the opportunity to live breast-free and see if it's right for her. While some women ultimately opt for reconstruction, others find they adjust well to the loss of one or both breasts and decide not to reconstruct.

Why Choose NOT to Reconstruct?

If a woman decides she's not interested in ever having reconstruction, she can ask her surgeon to make her mastectomy site as cosmetically pleasing as possible, leaving no extra skin. Even if a woman feels certain at the time of her mastectomy surgery that she will never want reconstruction, she still can opt for delayed reconstruction should she change her mind in the future. Over time, however, many women who choose NOT to reconstruct come to feel more positive than ever about their decision to live breast-free.

To help you decide whether NOT reconstructing is the right choice for you, we've gathered Personal Stories and Photographs. We hope reading about the experiences of other women who have faced similar decisions and seeing photographs of women who have been through surgery without reconstruction will help you feel less isolated and better informed about what to expect as you make this very personal decision.