Women who have undergone a mastectomy, as a result of breast cancer, tend to suffer from low confidence or low self-esteem due to the removal of their breasts. However, the good news is that there are surgical treatments that help rebuild the breasts.
This procedure is known as a tissue flap surgery or flap procedure and involves taking skin, muscle, or fat from other areas of the body to reconstruct the breasts. In fact, even women with breast development issues go in for this procedure to gain more natural looking breasts.
Tissue flap surgery is carried out in multiple sessions. The initial procedure can begin right after a mastectomy or even at a much later date. The final step of the procedure involves constructing the nipples and areolas.
The Different Types of Breast Reconstruction
When it comes to a surgical method, there are generally two ways to carry out the procedure. First, we have the pedicle flap approach, which involves removing a flap of tissue from the belly or back and moving it to the chest area, while retaining the blood supply. The tissue is pulled all the way to the chest area under the skin and then, attached.
The second approach is known as the free flap method and it involves cutting the blood supply. The tissues are excised and then placed over the chest area. This is a slightly more complex approach that requires a microscope.
Apart from these methods, you also have different types of flap procedures based on where the tissue, skin, or muscle are removed from. For starters, you have the TRAM (Transverse Rectus Abdominis Muscle) flap procedure, where tissue and muscle from the lower belly are used.
Then, you have the Latissimus Dorsi (LD) flap procedure, where skin, muscle, and fat from the upper back are used. Another procedure is the DIEP (Deep Inferior Epigastric Artery Perforator) flap procedure, where the skin and fat from the lower belly are used. This is similar to the TRAM procedure, except for the use of muscle.
There is also the SIEA (Superficial Inferior Epigastric Artery) flap procedure, which is similar to DIEP. However, here, the surgeon doesn’t cut through the belly muscles to access the artery for the new breast.
The last two procedures are the Gluteal Free Flap and the TYG (Transverse Upper Gracilis) flap procedure. The former uses fat, skin, and muscle from the buttocks and is ideal for thin women. The latter utilizes tissue from the patient’s upper inner thigh.
Recovering from a Breast Reconstruction Surgery
After a flap procedure, you may experience some amount of fatigue and soreness in the first few weeks. This is normal and nothing to be alarmed about. Drainage tubes may be placed to get rid of excess fluids.
Your surgeon will ask you to wear a support bra or elastic bandage to stop the minor amount of swelling that occurs with such procedures.
It can take a few weeks to return to your daily routine. However, do talk to your surgeon or doctor to learn more about this procedure.