Choosing to wear a breast prosthesis or having a breast reconstruction is a personal choice. You may find it helpful to consider the benefits, drawbacks and possible complications of all the available options:
You don’t necessarily have to choose between the options – you may start off with a prosthesis, then decide later to have a breast reconstruction. Keep in mind, that not all reconstruction options are suitable for all women. This might be due to the type of breast cancer or treatment you had, because you need further treatment for the cancer, or due to your general health.
What to consider when making a decision
- Take time to understand what a prosthesis or reconstruction involves so your expectations of the end result are realistic.
- Talk to your surgeon about the different breast reconstruction options including the best time to have the procedure. You may choose to have a reconstruction at the time of your mastectomy or you can have a reconstruction in the future. If you decide to have a delayed reconstruction or not to have a reconstruction at all, you can use a breast form to create the look of a natural breast. A breast care nurse or counsellor can also help you think through the issues.
- If you are referred to a reconstructive surgeon, ask to see photos of their work and to talk to some of their previous patients.
- If you are offered a choice of reconstructive operations, you will need to weigh up the benefits and drawbacks. Consider the impact of the side effects and the length of recovery. If only one type of reconstruction is recommended, ask your doctor to explain why other options have not been offered.
- If you live in a regional or rural area, your breast prosthesis or reconstruction options may be limited. For more options, you may consider travelling to a major city centre.
- If you have a partner, you may want to talk about the options with them and ask them to come to appointments. You can also talk to friends, family or other women who have had a similar experience to you. Click here for information on support groups and services such as Cancer Council Connect.
- Try not to feel pressured into a decision based on what other people think. You also have the right to accept or refuse any of the reconstructive options offered to you.
- Visit the website BRECONDA (Breast Reconstruction Decision Aid). It has been developed specifically to help guide women through the decision-making process about whether breast reconstruction is the right choice for them.
To help you understand the different surgical procedures and think through the information you need to make your decision, see the relevant question checklist. If your doctors use medical terms you don’t understand, it’s okay to ask for a simpler explanation or check a word’s meaning in the glossary.
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A second opinion
Getting a second opinion from another breast surgeon or plastic surgeon may be a valuable part of your decision-making process. It can confirm or clarify the first doctor’s recommendations and reassure you that you have explored different options.
Some people feel uncomfortable asking their doctor for a second opinion, but specialists are used to patients doing this. It is important that you feel comfortable with, and have trust in, your surgeon. Ask your surgeon or general practitioner about getting a second opinion if you want to. You can then decide which surgeon you would prefer to do your breast reconstruction. For a list of people involved in your care go to Who will do the reconstruction.