Reconstruction implant vs own tissue? Can anyone share their experiences please?

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I've been told that I'll be having a mastectomy and reconstruction and the lymphnodes in my armpit will also be removed at the same time.

I have to make the choice of an implant or using my own body fat/tissue from my thighs, bum, stomach or back.   I've been told about and have been researching the pros and cons to both but would love to hear from people who have first hand experience of either option.

How did you find the recovery?

How is life with your new breast?

How is the scarring?

Do you think you made the right choice?

Are you happy with how your breasts look?

Have you had any issues?

Thank you Pray

  • Hi there,

    It's not quite the answer to the question you asked, but I hope it will be useful in some way! Last year I had a double mastectomy without reconstruction (by choice) with aesthetic flat closure. I had 3 operations, chemo & radiotherapy before finding out I had a BRCA1 mutation... hence the preventative double mastectomy a year later. When I first found out about my genetic mutation and was told about a mastectomy, it was always talk of reconstruction options and being flat wasn't mentioned because supposedly young women 'don't want to be flat', so I suppose I wanted to highlight it to you in case you feel it could suit you too as it's a very real choice that I think should be discussed more. I know it's not something that appeals to everyone (and apologies if you've already discussed it and taken it off your table!), but it's good to explore all options in order to make the best decision for you.

    I had a few reasons for going flat: shortest operation time (I was soooo tried of being operated on and poked by needles), least risk of complications, no need to replace in the future (like implants), quickest recovery time, etc. I'm also very active and do a lot of sports, and it was the option that allowed me to get back into action as quickly as possible and there is no discomfort as with an implant or reconstructed tissue. I can run and jump as much as I like without worrying that something might displace, I can sleep very comfortably on my front and side and lying on the beach is a breeze too. I feel like I've been set free. Personally, once I made up my mind, I had zero desire to have any reconstruction and now I have lots of body confidence following the surgery and feel very happy with my new norm and no less feminine.

    My sister didn't have breast cancer, but she discovered that she carried the same genetic mutation and went ahead with a preventative mastectomy last year with immediate reconstruction with implants. She also recovered well and is very happy with her choice. She didn't have any issues, but it takes a while to see what the finished breast will look like and for all the swelling to go down. She is now 6 months down the line and I think only now does she get close to seeing what the finished result will be. So it's important to be patient and not to expect instant results. In terms of scarring, she has very neat small scars in the crease of the breast so they are barely noticeable. Depending on the location of your cancer though, your scars may be quite different. The body heals very well though and scars can fade quickly. I look at my first scars from lumpectomy/lymph node removal in 2021 and parts are pretty much invisible because it has healed so well.

    The website BRCA Chat has a good mastectomy gallery with photos of women who have had all types of reconstruction. Perhaps it could help you to take a look at different options to see what you feel like could suit you best? It's tricky because each operation depends on the surgeon doing it, but hopefully it can give you a better idea of some results. They note how long after the surgery the photo is and if there were any complications.

    I hope this helps in some way and wish you the best of luck in your decision and future surgery!

  •   Thank you for your reply and sharing the  experiences of yourself and your sister .  I'm so glad that both you and your sister are happy with your choices.l and have had posiy7ve experiences and good recoveries.

    I was told that because I don't have the genetic mutation  I can't have my healthy breast operated on so going completely flat would not be an option available to me.  I did consider it but the decisiok  was made for me.  I don't think I would opt for fully flat even if it was an option available to me as I’ve always had a very hour glass figure so I think I'd struggle with being flat.

    Thank you for the link to the mastectomy gallery that's really helpful.

    It's been lovely to read your positive stories and I wish you all the best for your continued recovery Heart️  xxx 

  • Hello, I am on week 9 from recovery of diep flap reconstruction with my own tissue, it has all gone well for me and I definitely feel I have made the right choice. The recovery is substantial but I was prepared for this and it was ok. You have to be sure you have the time to give to yourself (this is for stomach tissue and I don't know how it varies with other types of tissue) as you will need to rest, walk slowly at an angle , sleep, and slowly work yourself back to standing straight and your normal routine.  So yes it is a commitment but it’s a matter of thinking long term is how I saw it. On week 9 I am doing normal life and have been for a few weeks now - household chores /working and am feeling ok, just have to take it a bit more easy. I was fit and healthy before the op so this may have helped and recovery does vary. I have just put my 9 year old to bed and did my physio exercises for 5 minutes and have done two more sets today plus scar massage.  The first few days/week of recovery is the most challenging but you just sort of go with the flow. My new breast feels normal now (apart from missing a nipple) and I am amazed at what the surgeons can do. I was lucky in that I had no complications. The scarring is healed over and I massage the 4 scars (tummy/ belly button/ nipple and armpit lymph scar)  with oils and moisturisers , at first it was weird but the more I did it I desensitised and it helped me also connect with my new body . I kind of enjoy my routine as I work towards full recovery and feel proud of myself for getting through it. At times I felt I would never feel normal again as the breast felt a bit awkward and uncomfortable from swelling and nerves, but it has now settled and feels great . They stitched my stomach muscles back together following separation from pregnancy so that was a bonus and I’m actually happy with my new flat tummy and posture. I wish you luck with your decision and I agree

  •   thank you so much for sharing your experiences with me, that's really helpful. I'm so glad to read how well youre doing with your recovery.  Wishing you all the best with continued recovery xx

  • Thank you, and good luck with your decision, it’s all so overwhelming isn’t it, all the leaflets and information and having to make decisions at a time when you’re feeling vulnerable. Sending hugs to you! 

  • It really is isn't it.  My manager said to me this week I bet you didn't imagine yourself in this situation 6 month ago.  It's crazy how I've gone from researching new gyms in November to a few months later I'm researching breast reconstruction surgery!  Such big life long decisions but I'm greatful to have the options to choose from.   I've googled the plastic surgeon that would be doing the own tissue surgery and that was reassuring reading about his work and reputation.