Reconstruction of the breast during the same surgery as the mastectomy is referred to as immediate, or primary, breast reconstruction. There can be several potential advantages to an immediate reconstruction which include:
- Aesthetic Outcome - (particularly if a skin-sparing mastectomy is appropriate) This will allow for preservation of skin with the natural chest skin color as much as possible.
- Psychological Benefit - Studies have demonstrated that women with an immediate reconstruction after mastectomy may have a decrease in feelings of physical marring and diminished femininity compared to women who undergo mastectomy alone.
Breast reconstruction initiated at a later date than the mastectomy is given the term delayed, or secondary, reconstruction. A patient may not be a good candidate to begin reconstruction in the immediate setting for various reasons, such as a temporary but unstable medical condition, presence of severely extensive cancer, or high likelihood of radiation. Some women may elect to postpone reconstruction because they are undecided about undergoing further treatments or because they wish to only deal with cancer treatments before considering reconstructive efforts.
Regardless of the situation, in most cases it is helpful for a woman with the diagnosis of breast cancer to be able to discuss these options with her plastic surgeon. This will allow for reassurance and the comfort of a more informed decision regardless of the type or timing of reconstruction.