Breast Reconstruction

Breast reconstruction is used to restore the shape and size of the original breast after breast cancer surgery. It may be undertaken after a mastectomy or a disfiguring lumpectomy. The procedure can be performed in a variety of ways to accommodate different needs. Breast reconstruction can be done using synthetic implants or tissue from the patient’s own body, depending on other cancer treatments performed and the patient’s own preference.

Candidates for Breast Reconstruction Surgery

Women may consider breast reconstruction surgery for the following reasons:

  • They consider it an important part of their recovery from breast cancer
  • To match the remaining breast if only one breast is removed
  • To allow clothing to fit better without having to wear external breast forms

About the Procedure

There are many choices when it comes to breast reconstruction surgery. Some women may choose to have the procedure at the same time they have their breast cancer surgery to avoid subsequent procedures. Others delay their reconstruction to allow time for chemotherapy or radiation treatments after the initial breast cancer surgery. 

Techniques used for breast reconstruction surgery will also vary, based on whether implant or tissue grafts are used. The procedure is generally performed under general anaesthesia and may require a night or two in the hospital. Incisions will also vary, based on the specific technique used. Scars are an inevitable part of any surgery, but every effort will be made to make visible post-operative scarring inconspicuous.

See Before and Afters

What to Expect After Surgery

After surgery, compression dressings may be placed over the breasts to hold them in place and minimise swelling during the recovery process. Depending on your situation, you may be back to most  regular activities within two to four weeks. Return to strenuous activities will be delayed longer. 

Breast reconstruction is a way for some breast cancer survivors to make a positive step from their cancer diagnosis to the healing process. To learn more about your choices in breast reconstruction, contact Dr Thomas on 03 9034 7738.

Risks and Complications of Breast Reconstruction

Complications can arise after breast reduction. Some of the risks and adverse outcomes of this surgery include:

  • Fluid collection in the surgical area
  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Poor or delayed wound healing
  • Excessive scar tissue
  • Loss of sensitivity
  • Numbness or pins and needles sensation
  • Problems with breast implant, if an implant is used
  • Flap failure, if a flap technique is used
  • Revision surgeries

Activity Guidelines After Breast Reconstruction

The post-operative instructions below are targeted to minimise the risks of breast reconstruction. Please note that this is a general timeline of breast reconstruction recovery; individual experiences and guidelines may vary.


Days 1-3

  • Expect some discomfort, bruising and swelling around your breasts and chest. 
  • Take pain medication and antibiotics as prescribed to manage discomfort and prevent infection.
  • Avoid any activities that increase heart rate or blood pressure.
  • Avoid anything that could contaminate the surgical incision.
  • You may have one or more drains in place to remove extra fluid from the surgical site while it heals.
  • If directed, start wearing a compression garment under your clothing. These garments may be worn for several weeks after breast surgery to assist with swelling and wound healing.

Days 4-7

  • From day 3, resume walking at a leisurely pace. 
  • Follow your doctor’s instructions on wound care and drain care.
  • Continue to avoid sweating and excessive shoulder movement, especially overhead and sideways movements.

Weeks 1-2

  • Attend your follow-up appointment to have your dressings and drains removed.
  • Some swelling and bruising will likely still be present, but should begin to subside.
  • Driving is okay at 1 week post-op as long as you feel safe and able to do so.
  • Walking and other light activity is encouraged to help promote blood flow and prevent blood clots.

Weeks 2-6

  • You may gradually increase your activity level, with Dr Thomas’ guidance.
  • Continue to avoid overhead lifting, strenuous sports and vigorous exercise.
  • Most of the swelling and bruising should have subsided, though some residual swelling may remain.

Weeks 6-8

  • Most patients can start to return to normal activities, including work, during this period. Recovery time may be shorter for implant-based reconstruction than flap-based reconstruction.
  • Follow Dr Thomas’ guidance regarding when you can resume wearing regular bras.

Months 3-6 and Beyond

  • The scars should continue to fade and become less noticeable.
  • The breast tissue may begin to feel more natural and comfortable.
  • Certain types of breast reconstruction do not restore normal feeling to the breast. With other techniques, some feeling might return over time.

Breast Reconstruction Results

The outcome of breast reconstruction surgery varies based on the type and extent of the procedure. The preliminary results can be immediate, however, swelling and bruising may temporarily obscure the final result of the procedure. It may take months for the breast(s) to fully heal and settle into a new position.

The longevity of breast reconstruction can vary depending on the type of reconstruction performed and the patient’s health and lifestyle. Generally, breast reconstruction surgery is considered permanent, but it is important to maintain regular follow-ups with Dr Thomas to monitor your healing and identify any potential issues. If implants are used, they may need to be replaced in the future.

To ensure that the results of your breast reconstruction last as long as possible, practice healthy lifestyle habits such as a balanced diet, regular exercise and avoiding smoking. Regular breast exams and mammograms are important for monitoring your breast health and detecting any potential issues early.

A Note on Results

The results of any medical treatment, aesthetic or otherwise, will affect patients differently based on various individual, genetic, environmental, diet, exercise and other factors. For that reason, you should always expect to see some variance between the results featured and the results you can achieve. What works for one person may not work for another, and each patient’s unique needs and expectations must be considered when determining the best course of action. 

Therefore, it is essential to have a thorough consultation with a qualified and experienced medical professional who can help to determine the most appropriate treatment plan based on your specific circumstances. It is also important to understand that breast reconstruction is not a quick fix and requires patience and commitment to achieve the desired results.