Nipple Reconstruction & Mastectomy
When you have a risk-reducing mastectomy, the whole of the breast is removed, often including the nipple. If you elect for a complete reconstruction and it has not been possible to keep your nipples, then there are a few techniques available for nipple reconstruction. In some cases this won’t be necessary as the original nipple can be kept or grafted back onto your new breast. However, if there is a chance that it may contain any cancer cells, this will not be an available option.
Nipple reconstruction can be done either at the same time as the breast reconstruction, or a couple of months afterwards once the breast has fully healed and settled into a final shape and position. The chief difference between the two comes from the ability to predict where the nipple should be placed upon the new and reconstructed breast. When it comes to the reconstruction itself there are several options available:
Local Skin Flap Surgery – This technique uses local skin flaps which are wrapped around to create a nipple shape on the breast.
Skin Graft – This sees the nipple and areola be reconstructed from grafted skin tissue taken from a part of your body where the skin is likely to be a darker colour.
Nipple Share Procedure – Similar to the above, but this procedure takes a part of the opposite nipple and grafts it to the reconstructed breast.
Silicone Nipples – This isn’t an operation and can be an option for people who do not wish to have anymore surgery. In this case, you would opt for a silicone stick-on nipple which can be custom made and attached to the breast once reconstructed. It should be noted however that the lifespan of silicone nipples is roughly 18 months.
Nipple Tattooing – Another option available and one becoming increasingly more popular, is to reconstruct the projecting part of the nipple and then use a tattoo for the areola. Tattooing can also be used without the reconstruction part but will not give the 3d look of a real nipple. The advantage of this operation is that it can be done without anaesthetic and is only a day case.
Each option has its own advantages and disadvantages and it’s important to discuss with your surgeon which of the procedures is the best for you. Retaining the right look of your breast following reconstruction is very important in moving forward. Nipple reconstruction remains an important factor in that process and should be treated as such.