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Life after a mastectomy – how your surgeon can help

Breast cancer is now the most common type of cancer in the UK. Improvements in medicine mean that 2 out of 3 women with breast cancer now survive more than 20 years after they have been diagnosed, a huge increase on what that number was forty years ago. One treatment that helps these woman survive is a mastectomy procedure where the breast is removed, taking the tumour with it.  Although a mastectomy can stop the cancer, it can have long lasting effects on women causing them to feel ugly or less feminine. While post mastectomy clothing helps some women feel more comfortable, many surgeons now offer nipple and breast reconstruction surgery to help improve a woman’s body confidence.

Breast reconstruction can be done at the same time as the breast is removed, or it can be done months of years after. Breast reconstruction aims to create a breast that matches a woman’s natural, non affected breast so the breasts look as alike and natural as possible. However, it can never match the breast that was removed.  A surgeon is able to advise whether breast implants should be used or whether tissue can be taken from another area of the body to form the breast. In some cases, nipple reconstruction can be used so the woman’s original nipple can be attached to the new breast. Many women are happy to have this as they feel it makes their breasts look more identical. It also helps to retain some sensitivity in the nipples.

The breast is likely to be painful for some time after breast reconstruction but there are several things that can be done to ease the recovery process. A woman should rest for a week after the operation and take things steady at home. It may take some time before a woman can use her car again as it will take time to be able to make sudden movements and emergency stops without causing pain in the breast area.

Recovering from breast cancer is difficult for every woman but it is definitely not impossible. Once the physical illness has been beaten it can be hard to overcome the psychological issues, but women are now fighting back against breast cancer and with help from an experienced surgeon and the support of friends and family a woman can recover from a mastectomy and get back to her normal life.

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