Types of breast reconstruction

The main types of breast reconstruction are implant reconstruction or flap reconstruction, or a combination of the two.

If having an immediate reconstruction, it can be combined with total, skin-sparing or nipple-sparing mastectomy.

Most reconstructions involve two or more operations several weeks or months apart. Your reconstructive surgeon will discuss the different methods and suggest the most suitable one for you.

Your reconstruction options will depend on several factors:

  • your body shape and build
  • your general health
  • the surgeon’s experience
  • the amount of tissue that has already been removed
  • any scars from other operations
  • the quality of the remaining skin and muscle
  • the breast size you would like
  • whether one or both breasts are affected
  • whether you need radiotherapy or have already had it
  • whether you smoke – this affects the type of flap you can have, as some types of operations are more likely to have complications in smokers or women who have recently quit.

Skin- and nipple-sparing mastectomy and breast reconstruction

You may be able to have a mastectomy that preserves the skin or nipple (called skin-sparing mastectomy or nipple-sparing mastectomy).

In these operations the breast tissue is removed, but most or all of the skin (and sometimes the nipple) is preserved. This often makes the reconstruction appear more natural and any scars are usually less visible. Some type of immediate reconstruction is also performed at the same time as the mastectomy to fill out the skin.

These operations are not suitable for all types of breast cancer, so you should discuss this option with your breast cancer surgeon.


This information was last reviewed in June 2017
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