What Happens After a Mastectomy?

November 10, 2022

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For some women with breast cancer, a necessary part of treatment is the removal of one or both breasts, called a mastectomy. While this lifesaving surgery is vital to completely remove the cancer, it can also affect a woman’s self-esteem and body image. 

Peter Ashjian, MD, a plastic surgeon at Adventist Health Glendale, offers women hope: surgical reconstruction of their breasts. 

Offering options 

Dr. Ashjian describes two methods of breast reconstruction. The first is to place a breast implant, while the second, lesser-known option is to use tissue from the woman’s abdomen to re-create the breast. 

“A lot of women don’t know that tissue reconstruction is an option because not all surgeons can do it,” he says. “It’s a great choice for women who don’t want breast implants and for women with a C or D cup, because you really can’t match that shape with an implant.” 

Better Breast Symmetry 

For women who have a single mastectomy, meaning only one breast is removed, Dr. Ashjian says that symmetry is often a concern. He offers a simple solution. 

“For symmetry, we have methods such as breast lift or reduction that can be done on the natural breast to match the reconstructed breast,” he explains. A welcome benefit? “Insurance companies usually cover work on the noncancer side for symmetry.” 

A body restored 

“For a lot of women, undergoing a mastectomy has a psychological impact,” Dr. Ashjian says. “It’s a constant reminder of the cancer, and they often feel a sense of loss or even disfigurement.” 

Dr. Ashjian is involved with each woman’s care plan from an early stage to share options and help her make decisions. He says that helping women with breast reconstruction after cancer is gratifying because “it helps them move past the cancer and restore their sense of self.”