Since breast implants are purely cosmetic, they may be considered by some people as a luxury opposed to a necessity. However, many women are forced to part with their natural breasts due to breast cancer’s growing plague on our society. Breast implants can not correct the wounds and struggles that come with a breast cancer diagnosis, but many women find that a post mastectomy-augmentation brings back a since of normalcy that their cancer tried to steal from them.
And as you likely know, mastectomies are no longer just being preformed on patients diagnosed with breast cancer. Angelina Jolie has recently made headlines by electing to have a complete mastectomy as well as a radical hysterectomy after finding that her family history and genetic markers made her risks of cancer higher than average.
Angelina isn’t alone. The number of women opting for a preventative (prophylactic) mastectomy have increased by 50% in recent years.
What’s Different About Breast Implants After a Mastectomy?
We talk a lot about the details of breast implants here, but does any of that change if you are getting breast implants after a mastectomy?
I was fortunate to be able to ask some questions of a friend who had done just that. After a double mastectomy in 2010, Wendy opted to undergo a breast augmentation to restore her shape. Wendy has given me permission to share some of her story, and here is a glimpse into our conversation...
Jenny Eden: First, will you share with us how your breast cancer was discovered?
Wendy: Sure, and I hope it is an example of the importance of self breast exams. I noticed a lump in my left breast while in the shower one morning. I consider myself to be very in tune with my body and I attribute my early diagnosis to that quality.
I immediately scheduled an appointment with my doctor where we proceeded to biopsy the lump which lead to my diagnosis. While my cancer was only in one breast, I opted to proceed with a double mastectomy.
Jenny Eden: Did you have a breast augmentation on the same day as your mastectomy?
Wendy: No. While I could have opted to get breast implants immediately following my mastectomy, I had not yet decided that I wanted to proceed with a breast augmentation. After hearing many stories of women who have had immediate and delayed reconstruction, I’m glad I didn’t do it all on one day.
My recovery for each breast surgery was difficult, I can’t imagine how difficult the recovery would have been if I had chosen an immediate reconstruction. There was also so much uncertainty and fear around my cancer diagnosis, I don’t think I was in a good place to have to also make decisions about breast implants.
I ended up going in for my breast augmentation about a year later. My plastic surgeon said that my chest wall and muscles were in good shape for the procedure.
Jenny Eden: Did you use the same plastic surgeon for both surgeries?
Wendy: No. While the plastic surgeon who preformed my mastectomy was highly skilled in mastectomies, I chose a plastic surgeon who was well known for his work with reconstruction.
Jenny Eden: What kind of breast implants did you get? And what were your options?
Wendy: My choices for implant type were the same as anyone else. I ended up choosing a smooth silicone implant. I chose silicone because I didn’t have any natural breast tissue left and I was concerned that saline breast implants wouldn’t feel very natural.
I think my breast implants are 325cc. My plastic surgeon recommended staying on the smaller side because large breast implants would have caused too much stretching in my chest. I was an A cup before my mastectomy, so these actually feel big to me!
Because my breast tissue had been removed, my plastic surgeon placed my implant under my muscle. I don’t think over the muscle would have been an option.
Jenny Eden: I feel silly asking this, but which recovery was harder for you?
Wendy: My mastectomy recovery defiantly kept me down longer and was more painful. I do think that my reconstruction recovery was more painful than a regular breast augmentation. Probably because I was completely flat chested, and because I had already had an invasive procedure done in that area.
Jenny Eden: And where are your feelings now? Are you glad you decided to get breast implants after your mastectomy?
Wendy: Absolutely! While I didn’t feel self-conscious about my looks during my year between mastectomy and augmentation, it was a constant reminder of my former diagnosis. My breast augmentation made me feel like I was putting a nail in the coffin of my cancer.
Jenny Eden: That's awesome :-) And how is your health now?
Wendy: I have a clean bill of health!! Since my diagnosis I am much more careful about the food that I eat. I work out regularly and treat myself to pedicures and massages more often.
My suggestion to any of your readers is this…
Don’t wait until something tragic happens to start taking care of yourself. Your body deserves your attention now, whether that's incorporating self breast exams or pulling the trigger on getting the breast augmentation you've always wanted.
And if something like cancer creeps into your life, do whatever it takes rise above it! Take heart, this is just one more mountain you have to conquer!!