Breast cancer is far too common, touching the lives of mothers, sisters, daughters, and friends. Not only does this disease ruin health and end lives, but it also leaves many women feeling broken. Mastectomy, or breast removal surgery, is a powerful treatment tool in the fight against breast cancer, but it does remove the breasts and, for some women, their sense of femininity.
If cancer has taken your breasts, take back your body with breast reconstruction surgery in Birmingham, AL. Call Clinton Plastic Surgery at 205-408-9787 to schedule your consultation with Dr. Michael Clinton.
Why Should I Choose Dr. Clinton for My Birmingham Breast Reconstruction?
Dr. Clinton has experience with the many techniques used for reconstruction of the breast, and he can evaluate your case to determine the best method for you. We recommend contacting a plastic surgeon that specializes in breast reconstruction as soon as possible after your diagnosis. The earlier we start to plan, the more options you’ll have available.
Breast reconstruction is a collaborative process and Dr. Clinton will work with your oncologist, as necessary, to schedule your surgery immediately following your mastectomy, or as soon as medically advisable. Full reconstruction is often a multi-procedure process that takes months to complete.
Dr. Clinton gives all his patients a great deal of one-on-one attention. He is a great listener and is empathetic to your concerns. He studied biomedical engineering at Vanderbilt and medicine at UAB, and he received his plastic surgery training at Duke – some of the country’s most prestigious universities. He then spent years in trauma care before focusing on the field of aesthetics.
Reconstructive surgeries are a significant part of his practice. As a result, Dr. Clinton has the experience to work on even the most complex of cases.
What Happens During Breast Reconstruction?
Breast reconstruction can be done in a number of ways, depending on the specifics of your case. This procedure is customized for each patient, using the latest techniques and surgical methods to ensure the best possible result from treatment. All methods require general anesthesia and a short hospital stay.
Dr. Clinton will recommend the most effective options for your reconstruction. These options may include:
- Balloon Tissue Expanders– If breast implants are to be inserted during your breast reconstruction, you may require a temporary balloon tissue expander. This device is placed under the chest muscle in order to stretch the tissue for a period of weeks or months. This creates enough tissue to properly cover the implant. Fluid is infused into the expander to increase its size and stretch the skin and muscle gradually. When there is enough expansion, the expander can be removed, and the implant can be inserted.
- TRAM and DIEP Flaps- A flap involves using your own tissue (usually from the abdomen or the back) to reconstruct your breast. The TRAM flap uses lower abdominal skin and muscle to create the breast, while the DIEP flap uses lower abdominal skin and fat. The tissue remains attached to the abdomen’s blood supply and is tunneled from the abdomen to the chest underneath the skin. In some cases, tissue from the upper back is used. This is called a latissimus dorsi flap. A breast implant may still be required with this type of flap.
- Bilateral Reconstruction- Even if you had only a single mastectomy, some reconstruction of the healthy breast may be preferable to ensure symmetry between both breasts as much as possible.
Dr. Clinton will advise the techniques he recommends for you and will explain the procedure fully.
What Can I Expect During Recovery from Breast Reconstruction in Birmingham, AL?
Recovery will depend on the technique used for your breast reconstruction. We will send you home with written instructions for how to take care of yourself after your main surgery and each pre-surgery procedure. This will be a reinforcement of verbal instructions that you will receive on several occasions. You will also be evaluated no later than the day after your procedure and monitored during your recovery period. We encourage you to call us if you have any questions at all.
Bruising, swelling, and discomfort are to be expected after breast reconstruction. Swelling is usually the last side effect to go away completely. The scars will improve over time, and we will give you instructions as to how speed healing.
We will provide you with a prescription for pain medication, and you will also be given antibiotics to prevent infection. Drains are sometimes placed in the breast and abdominal incisions for a few days or up to two weeks. They will collect post-surgical fluids as you heal. We will instruct you on how to care for them and will remove them as soon as possible.
You will need to sleep on your back for a few weeks, and you must avoid heavy lifting and any strenuous activity or “straining” for a couple of weeks.
Most women return to office work within 3-4 weeks, but we will discuss this with you based on your individual case. We will provide you with a post-operative plan to help you return to all normal day-to-day activities as soon as possible.
Frequently Asked Questions About Birmingham Breast Reconstruction?
- When Is Breast Reconstruction Performed? – There are two timelines for a reconstruction procedure: Immediately or at the same time as the mastectomy (called immediate reconstruction) or delayed, sometimes months or even years later (called delayed reconstruction). We can help you decide which type of reconstruction will work best with your cancer treatment plan.
- How Does a Reconstructed Breast Look and Feel? – Reconstructed breasts often look and feel different than your natural breasts. They may have a firmer texture. Dr. Clinton often operates on both breasts, even after a single mastectomy, to help balance the appearance between the natural and the reconstructed breasts.
- How Many Surgeries Will I Need for a Full Reconstruction? – Breast reconstruction is often a multi-part operation, requiring several surgeries before achieving the final result. Dr. Clinton can give you a better idea of what to expect during your consultation.
- Will I Have Scarring After Breast Reconstruction? – Scarring will occur after mastectomy and reconstruction. To minimize scars, Dr. Clinton uses advanced surgical and suturing techniques. Most patients find that their scars fade substantially in the first year after surgery.
- Should I Have Breast Reconstruction Surgery? – The breast reconstruction decision is one that only you can make. Come in for a consultation and learn more about your options. Even if you decide that reconstruction isn’t right for you, at least you’ll have the information you need to make an informed choice. You didn’t choose cancer, but the decision to move forward with breast reconstruction or not is completely up to you.
Learn more about breast reconstruction in Birmingham by scheduling a consultation with Dr. Clinton, our board-certified plastic surgeon and breast reconstruction expert.