Breast Reconstruction Options

Women who have had surgery to treat breast cancer can choose from several types of breast reconstruction. When deciding what type is best for you, you and your doctors should discuss factors including your health and your personal preferences. Take the time to learn what options are available to you and consider talking to others who have had that procedure before you make a decision.

Types of breast reconstruction procedures

Several types of reconstructive surgery are available, and often the process means more than one operation. Give yourself plenty of time to make the best decision for you. You should make your decision about breast reconstruction only after you are fully informed.

The two main types of breast reconstruction are implant reconstruction and tissue (flap) reconstruction. Sometimes the implant and flap procedures are used together to rebuild a breast. 

For all types of breast reconstruction there is often an opportunity for future “touch up” procedures, such as fat grafting and scar revisions. Breast reconstruction can also recreate the nipple-areolar area that can be done with a small surgical procedure, tattooing, or a combination of both. This is done to help make the reconstructed breast look more like the original breast.

For information about the procedures to reconstruct the shape of your breast or breasts see the following pages:

Choosing which type of breast reconstruction to have

If you’ve decided to have breast reconstruction, you’ll still have many things to think about as you and your doctors talk about what type of reconstruction might be best for you. Some of the factors you and your doctors will need to think about when considering your options include:

  • Your overall health (including issues that might affect your healing, such as smoking or certain health conditions)
  • The size and location of your breast cancer
  • Your breast size
  • The extent of your breast cancer surgery - if you are a candidate for lumpectomy or mastectomy, and the possibility to keep your nipple
  • Whether you will need cancer treatments other than surgery
  • The amount of tissue available for reconstruction (for example, very thin women may not have enough extra tummy tissue to use this area for breast reconstruction and having a "tummy tuck" in the past makes the tummy tissue not usable for breast reconstruction)
  • Whether you want reconstructive surgery on one or both breasts
  • Your desire to match the look of the other breast
  • Your insurance coverage and related costs for the unaffected breast
  • How quickly you want to be able to recover from surgery
  • Your willingness to have more than one surgery as part of the reconstruction
  • How different types of reconstructive surgery might affect other parts of your body

Your surgeon will review your medical history and overall health, and will explain which reconstructive options might be best for you based on your age, health, body type, lifestyle, goals, and other factors. Talk with your surgeon openly about your preferences. Be sure to voice any concerns and priorities you have for the reconstruction and find a surgeon you feel comfortable with. Your surgeon should explain the limits, risks, and benefits of each option. 

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Breast Reconstruction. Accessed at https://www.plasticsurgery.org/reconstructive-procedures/breast-reconstruction on July 28, 2021.

De La Cruz L, Blankenship SA, Chatterjee A, et al. Outcomes after oncoplastic breast-conserving surgery in breast cancer patients: A systematic literature review. Annals of Surgical Oncology 2016; 23(10):3247-3258.

Jagsi R, King TA, Lehman C, Morrow M, Harris JR, Burstein HJ. Chapter 79: Malignant Tumors of the Breast. In: DeVita VT, Lawrence TS, Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA, eds. DeVita, Hellman, and Rosenberg’s Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 11th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2019.

Losken A, Pinell-White X, Hodges M, Egro FM. Evaluating outcomes after correction of the breast conservation therapy deformity. Ann Plast Surg. 2015 Jun;74 Suppl 4:S209-13.

Mehrara BJ, Ho AY. Breast Reconstruction. In: Harris JR, Lippman ME, Morrow M, Osborne CK, eds. Diseases of the Breast. 5th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health; 2014.

National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN). Practice Guidelines in Oncology: Breast Cancer. Version 5.2021. Accessed at https://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/pdf/breast.pdf on July 28, 2021.

Patel K, Bloom J, Nardello S, Cohen S, Reiland J, Chatterjee A. An Oncoplastic Surgery Primer: Common Indications, Techniques, and Complications in Level 1 and 2 Volume Displacement Oncoplastic Surgery. Ann Surg Oncol. 2019 Jul 24. doi: 10.1245/s10434-019-07592-5. [Epub ahead of print]

References

American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Breast Reconstruction. Accessed at https://www.plasticsurgery.org/reconstructive-procedures/breast-reconstruction on July 28, 2021.

De La Cruz L, Blankenship SA, Chatterjee A, et al. Outcomes after oncoplastic breast-conserving surgery in breast cancer patients: A systematic literature review. Annals of Surgical Oncology 2016; 23(10):3247-3258.

Jagsi R, King TA, Lehman C, Morrow M, Harris JR, Burstein HJ. Chapter 79: Malignant Tumors of the Breast. In: DeVita VT, Lawrence TS, Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA, eds. DeVita, Hellman, and Rosenberg’s Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 11th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2019.

Losken A, Pinell-White X, Hodges M, Egro FM. Evaluating outcomes after correction of the breast conservation therapy deformity. Ann Plast Surg. 2015 Jun;74 Suppl 4:S209-13.

Mehrara BJ, Ho AY. Breast Reconstruction. In: Harris JR, Lippman ME, Morrow M, Osborne CK, eds. Diseases of the Breast. 5th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health; 2014.

National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN). Practice Guidelines in Oncology: Breast Cancer. Version 5.2021. Accessed at https://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/pdf/breast.pdf on July 28, 2021.

Patel K, Bloom J, Nardello S, Cohen S, Reiland J, Chatterjee A. An Oncoplastic Surgery Primer: Common Indications, Techniques, and Complications in Level 1 and 2 Volume Displacement Oncoplastic Surgery. Ann Surg Oncol. 2019 Jul 24. doi: 10.1245/s10434-019-07592-5. [Epub ahead of print]

Last Revised: October 20, 2021

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