Skip to Content Skip to Navigation


Breast Reconstruction

After a mastectomy, many women may choose to have a breast reconstruction, which is surgery to rebuild the breast shape. This can take place at the same time as a mastectomy or be carried out at a later date, several months or years later. A breast reconstruction can consist of two different procedures:

  • Breast implants

This typically involves implants made of saline or silicone

  • Tissue flap reconstruction

This involves the transfer of skin or tissue from a different part of your body. This can be from the back or abdomen, known as attached flaps, or the abdomen and buttocks, known as free flaps.

Some women may choose not to have a breast reconstruction. Another option is to wear a breast prosthesis, which is an artificial breast shape worn underneath the clothing. These can come in a variety of shapes and materials, and are some lingerie stores, department stores or specialty stockists.

Side effects of breast surgery

Everyone responds differently to the side effects that are experienced after a breast surgery and these may vary in severity. According to Cancer Australia, the side effects may happen straight after surgery or develop over time.

Some of these may include:

  • Pain, discomfort or numbness in the breast area and/or underarm while the wounds are healing – this usually settles after a few weeks
  • Stiffness in the arm or shoulder – it may be helpful to do some approved exercises after surgery
  • numbness or tingling in the arm or shoulder if lymph nodes have been removed – this may improve with time, but feeling in these areas may change permanently
  • Fluid may collect in or around the scar in the breast area or underarm – this is called a seroma and may need to be drained using a fine needle and a syringe; this can be done by a breast care nurse or another health professional in the clinic or by a GP
  • Mild pain in the arm and/or underarm – this can last a year or more after surgery if lymph nodes have been removed.
  • If lymph nodes have been removed, there may be swelling in the arm, breast area, hand or chest that lasts after the initial side effects of surgery are over; this is called lymphoedema and can develop a few months or years after .
  • Cording, a condition that can feel like a tight cord running from the underarm down the inner

Source: Cancer Australia


Frequently Asked Questions About Mastectomies and Breast Reconstruction

A double or bilateral mastectomy is the removal of both breasts.

A mastectomy normally takes between 1-2 hours.

As with all surgeries, there may be some pain in the hours and days following the mastectomy, but pain relief will be provided to help manage this.

Your doctor may suggest chemotherapy and other treatment before breast surgery. This is to shrink the breast cancer prior to surgery and control the cancer in other parts of the body like the lymph nodes.

A breast reconstruction can take place straight away after a mastectomy. It can also take place later if this is clinically indicated or preferred by the patient.