What is the difference between a breast augmentation and a breast reconstruction?
With similar names, it is easy to see why many patients get breast augmentation and breast reconstruction surgery confused. However, a breast reconstruction is a very different procedure to an augmentation in terms of why the procedure is sought after.
Here is what you need to know about the difference between a breast augmentation and a breast reconstruction.
What is a breast augmentation?
Most people have heard of a breast augmentation procedure, although it is most often referred to as a ‘boob job’. It is used to increase the size of the breasts and give women who are dissatisfied with their chest size a larger, more voluptuous silhouette. This is usually done using artificial implants of either silicone or saline. Silicone implants are pre-filled and available in a range of sized, while saline implants are inserted into the chest empty and then filled to the desired level.
Breast augmentation surgery is so commonly performed that it is very straightforward for an experienced plastic surgeon. The incisions are made under the breasts and the implant is inserted and arranged in place before the wound is sealed using sutures and wrapped in a compression garment which helps to control post-operative swelling and pain.
Breast augmentation is often carried out in conjunction with a breast lift, which enables the breasts to sit higher on the chest and gives the patient a more youthful appearance.
What is a breast reconstruction?
A breast reconstruction is the term given to the reconstruction of a woman’s breasts after she has had surgery to remove them. This is most often carried out due to a breast cancer diagnosis or the patient having a particularly high risk of breast cancer and choosing to have her breasts removed as a preventative measure.
Breast cancer is one of the leading cancers in the United States. Studies estimate that around 1 in every 8 women will develop invasive breast cancer at some point during her lifetime. Fortunately, the survival statistics for women with breast cancer are very good, with the average 10-year survival rate being 83%. Although exactly what treatment a patient with breast cancer needs may vary depending on how much the cancer has spread, at the very least she will undergo a lumpectomy. This is a procedure to remove the cancerous tissue from the breast. Obviously the more cancerous tissue there is, the larger the amount of breast tissue will need to be removed and this can leave breasts looking uneven.
However, in many instances a patient will opt for a procedure known as a mastectomy which sees the entire breast being removed. This can stop the cancer from spreading, or in the case of women who are using the procedure as a preventative measure, to stop the cancer from developing. A single mastectomy sees one breast being removed, while a double mastectomy involves the total removal of both breasts.
The psychological effects of breast removal
Unsurprisingly, the psychological effects of breast removal can be significant. Many women associate their breasts with femininity, sexiness and attractiveness and without them, they may feel somewhat lacking in these areas. Some women are so profoundly upset by the loss of their breasts that they experience low self-esteem and even depression – something which is only compounded by the tense emotions that normally accompany a breast cancer diagnosis.
Fortunately, a breast reconstruction can restore a patient’s feminine curves and their confidence in their appearance.
Is a breast reconstruction procedure any different to a breast augmentation?
In short, not really. Just like a breast augmentation, the size of your breasts will be increased using either a saline or silicone implant. The size of your implants will be determined ahead of time, although the benefit of a saline implant is that it is filled after insertion, enabling your surgeon to make minor adjustments. This can be particularly beneficial if you are having a single breast reconstructed and your surgeon is closely matching it in size and shape to your original breast.
How soon after a mastectomy is it possible to have a breast reconstruction?
The answer to this question really depends on your individual circumstances. Some patients are able to have their breast reconstructed immediately. However, if you are undergoing cancer treatment, you may need to wait until this is concluded. Your surgeon will confer with your oncologist to make a decision as to when it will be viable for you to undergo reconstructive surgery.
If you would like more information about the differences between breast augmentation and breast reconstructive surgery, please don’t hesitate to speak to our experienced and reassuring cosmetic surgery team.