There are several different types of mastectomy or breast cancer surgery. Most involve removing the nipple and areola. Therefore, women often rely on secondary surgeries and techniques after breast reconstruction to achieve the most natural-looking outcome.
For them, nipple reconstruction surgery can be an important final step in their breast reconstruction journey. Of course, the choice is entirely up to you.
Are you interested in exploring your options for nipple reconstruction? Call 303-706-1100 today to schedule a consultation at The Breast Center Park Meadows Cosmetic Surgery. We serve patients from Denver and Lone Tree, Colorado and across the country.
What Is Nipple Reconstruction?
Nipple reconstruction surgery is typically an outpatient procedure. It often uses the skin from your reconstructed breast or elsewhere on your body to rebuild an elevated nipple. To add color and create the appearance of an areola, the reconstructed nipple can be tattooed later.
The most significant benefit of getting your nipple reconstructed is that it will project outward. You may find that this gives your reconstructed breasts a more natural appearance in and out of clothing. That can go a long way to increase your overall satisfaction with your results.
Who Is a Candidate for Nipple Reconstruction?
You may be a candidate for nipple reconstruction if you have had breast reconstruction with implants or a tissue flap. However, it depends on your health and breast tissue condition.
Some factors that may impact your ability to get nipple reconstruction include:
- Skin damage due to radiation treatments
- Skin thickness after mastectomy and reconstruction
- Chest lymphedema
- A history of infections in the breast area
Nipple reconstruction is ideal for those who want their nipples to have physical dimension. Some patients prefer it if their nipples do not show through their clothes and enjoy the freedom that comes with not wearing a bra. If you identify with the latter, tattooing may be a better option.
Is Nipple Reconstruction Painful?
Nipple reconstruction is a minor procedure that is usually performed under local anesthesia. You may notice a slight pinch as the numbing medicine is injected into the treatment area. Once it takes effect, you should not feel much pain or tenderness during the procedure. Keep in mind that you may have little to no sensation in your breasts after mastectomy and reconstruction.
How Do I Prepare for Nipple Reconstruction?
You will receive a specific set of pre-operative guidelines before nipple reconstruction surgery. Those guidelines will include information about:
- Eating and drinking before your procedure
- Medications to take or avoid
- What to wear to your surgery
We often recommend waiting at least four months after breast reconstruction to get this surgery. Doing so will allow your breasts to heal and settle into their final appearance. If you are pursuing fat grafting and other shaping procedures, it is generally best to wait until those are complete.
How Is Nipple Reconstruction Performed?
Nipple reconstruction can be performed in several different ways. The most common techniques include:
- Skin flap: By folding and suturing together flaps of skin from your reconstructed breast, this approach creates a small elevated mound. Sometimes, additional skin, fat, or fillers are used to achieve better nipple projection.
- Skin graft: If there is not enough tissue to create flaps on the skin, a skin graft may be appropriate. It involves taking skin from another area of the body, such as the abdomen or thigh, and manipulating it to form a new nipple.
- Nipple sharing: If you had a unilateral mastectomy and the nipple on the unaffected breast is big enough, a portion of it can be used to build a new nipple. This technique results in a nipple that matches the other in terms of size and color.
Our surgeons may also place something called a Biodesign Nipple Reconstruction Cylinder. This tissue repair cylinder creates a scaffolding within the nipple to promote long-term volume and projection. The body gradually turns the material into natural tissue.
How Long Does the Nipple Take To Heal After Reconstruction?
Nipple reconstruction comes with a relatively short and easy recovery. Our surgeons will provide aftercare instructions and activity restrictions. You will need to wear a protective dressing until your follow-up visit a week after surgery. Avoid wearing tight bras and shirts that apply pressure.
It can take between four to six months for your new nipples to settle. At that point, you can choose to have tattoos applied to the reconstructed nipples and areola area. This step will add color and create a more realistic look.
What Should I Expect From My Results?
Nipple reconstruction has a high patient satisfaction rate. This is evidenced by a multi-center study on nipple reconstruction with the Biodesign Nipple Reconstruction Cylinder. Ninety-eight percent of patients involved recommended nipple reconstruction surgery following mastectomy.
Initially, your new nipple(s) may look larger and pointier than you expected. They may also be red and swollen. Do not be discouraged. Over time, they will shrink and look more natural.
Schedule Your Nipple Reconstruction Consult With Dr. Williams!
If you are interested in learning more about the nipple reconstruction surgery, or if you wish to determine whether you are a candidate for the procedure, please be sure to schedule a personalized appointment with Dr. Christopher G. Williams and Dr. Jeremy Z. Williams. Call 303-706-1100 or fill out the email contact form on our contact page. Our practice looks forward to serving you!