After undergoing breast cancer treatment, a woman who has undergone a mastectomy or lumpectomy often wants to regain the fullness and shape of the breasts as a means of moving forward with her life. Breast reconstruction is the only procedure capable of recreating the natural form of the bust, and can help patients to improve self-confidence and regain a sense of femininity. If you are ready to consider breast reconstruction after your cancer diagnosis and treatment, Dr Ritz performs a variety of techniques that allow him to tailor your surgery to your precise needs for an individualised plan and the best possible results.
Breast reconstruction is a highly personal process that can be done at the time of the mastectomy or at a later time when you are ready. Once you are prepared to move forward, Dr Ritz will walk you through your choices in reconstruction to help you devise the right approach for you. Communicating your desires clearly and discussing your cancer surgery with Dr Ritz will help you determine the right timing to reconstruct your breasts as well.
You may decide to come in for a consultation before a mastectomy or afterward. At that first meeting with Dr Ritz, you will discuss your current condition and your plans for cancer surgery. Dr Ritz has worked closely with oncologists and can perform your reconstruction immediately after your mastectomy if that is the approach you choose. If you will be undergoing additional cancer treatment, or simply don’t feel physically or emotionally ready for reconstruction right away, you can discuss the best timing for your surgery at this meeting as well.
When the time is right for your reconstruction surgery, there are a variety of options for how the procedure might be performed. The ideal approach for you will depend on a variety of factors, including the amount of tissue removed during mastectomy or lumpectomy, as well as your unique body composition. Dr Ritz might recommend using synthetic implants for your procedure, autologous tissue donations or a combination of the two to recreate the beast shape and add fullness that looks both natural and beautiful.
Women who have had a cancer diagnosis often have a long journey through treatment before they begin to feel like themselves once again. Breast reconstruction can be an essential component in that process as it provides many women with a feeling of “wholeness” once again. In addition, breast reconstruction restores a woman’s figure, makes clothing fit more attractively and increases her self-esteem after her breast cancer experience. If you would like to learn more about the breast reconstruction process, now is the perfect time to get started. Schedule your initial consultation with Dr Ritz today by phoning his office on 03 9508 9508.
Dr Ritz performs breast reconstruction at one of the accredited hospitals used by the Melbourne Institute of Plastic Surgery. You will be admitted to the hospital two hours before your procedure is scheduled to begin. If you are having the reconstruction done at the same time as the mastectomy, you may be admitted the day before your surgery to allow for sufficient preparation time. You should bring along your toiletries, comfortable clothing and any medications you are currently taking.
Before your procedure begins, Dr Ritz and possibly your breast surgeon will mark the areas where the incisions will be made. Incision location will vary based on the specific techniques used, although Dr Ritz will do everything possible to minimise visible scarring after surgery. If you are having a flap procedure performed, donor areas will also be marked. While you may only require reconstruction on one breast, both breasts may be addressed during surgery to ensure symmetry in size and shape. Nipple reconstruction may also be performed if necessary.
Dr Ritz performs breast reconstruction using general anaesthesia, so you will be comfortably asleep during your procedure. You will meet with an anaesthetist before your surgery who will explain what you can expect from the anaesthesia and answer any questions you might have. This individual will be present at your operation to monitor you throughout and ensure there are no anaesthesia-related complications.
Because breast reconstruction is highly individualised, it is difficult to pinpoint exactly how your surgery will be performed or how long it will take. You will receive your surgical plan that outlines the specific parameters of your operation beforehand, so you know what to expect at the hospital. Dr Ritz and other members of your surgical team will also be on hand to answer questions while you are at the hospital.
Depending on the extent of your breast reconstruction, you may remain overnight in an intensive care unit where you can be appropriately monitored for the first hours after your surgery. After that time, you can transfer to a private hospital room, where you might remain for up to one week. Attentive medical staff will care for your needs during that time, keeping you comfortable and ensuring no complications arise.
While in the hospital, staff will be keeping a close eye on any drains Dr Ritz has placed to prevent fluid build-up in your incisions. Once the drains are removed, Dr Ritz will have you fitted for a specialised support bra that limits swelling and provides additional support to the breasts. You will need to wear this bra for up to six weeks day and night. After you have been released from the hospital, you will also have follow-up appointments with Dr Ritz and his staff each week to assess your recovery progress and address any concerns as they arise.
Bruising, swelling and discomfort are all common in the days and weeks following breast reconstruction surgery. Dr Ritz will prescribe pain medication to help you manage discomfort, but you will not be able to drive as long as you are taking it. Most patients can begin driving again after two weeks, so be sure you have someone that can take you to your first couple of follow-up appointments. Antibiotics are also commonly prescribed to prevent infection after surgery.
It is a good idea to enlist a friend or family member to assist you during those early days, so you can focus on resting and recuperating. If your job is not overly strenuous, you should be able to return to work within approximately two the three weeks. Rigorous activity will be discouraged during the first few weeks since this can raise your blood pressure and increase the potential for post-operative bleeding. Most patients can resume their workout programs within about six weeks, but Dr Ritz will advise you on when you can get back to the gym based on your own recovery progress.
It may take several weeks for swelling to completely subside so that you can see the full results of your procedure. However, residual swelling should not prevent you from resuming all your regular activities within the prescribed timeframe. Once your outcome becomes evident, it should also be very long-lasting. Your breasts should look even, full and as natural as possible, restoring your confidence in your appearance and your sense of femininity.