During a mastectomy, your breast tissue along with the nipple and areola are typically removed. During your breast reconstruction journey, nipple reconstruction surgery is performed if you would like a new nipple.
Nipple reconstruction surgery is performed after your mastectomy, if you have chosen to undergo the procedure as part of your breast reconstruction surgery. It is typically performed as an outpatient procedure and there are three techniques of nipple reconstruction:
1. Local flap: Flaps of skin from your breast are folded and stitched together to form a nipple.
Skin grafts: In case there is a lack of skin on your breast, your surgeon will use skin from another part of your body. This is usually your abdomen, thighs, groin or buttocks.
Nipple sharing: In this technique, the surgeon will use a part of the nipple on your unaffected breast to graft onto the newly reconstructed breast to form the new nipple.
Listed below are the steps of a nipple reconstruction surgery:
You will receive local anaesthesia on your the site of the reconstruction. In case you are getting a skin graft, you will also get local anaesthesia on the site from where the skin will be taken.
A small incision will be made on the reconstruction site. The grafted skin or the surrounding skin will then be used to form the shape of a nipple. The surgeon will then suture this into place, and cover it with a nipple shield, which are made of silicon and is used as a protective covering.
Your surgeon may also insert a skin substitute (which are biological or synthetic materials used in reconstruction surgeries), scar tissue or fat into the new nipple, to make sure it does not look flat.
Many patients choose to undergo a nipple tattooing procedure, which is performed by medical aestheticians and can be done a few months following your nipple reconstruction surgery. You can also choose to only have the tattooing done, without the reconstruction surgery.
If you do not want to undergo a surgery, nipple prosthetics are an option. These are made using silicons usually, and can be attached and removed according to your liking. Developments in the field has lead to the production of custom made and long lasting prosthetics which are a great alternative to surgery.
Have a thorough consultation with your surgeon before undergoing the surgery. Nipple reconstruction is a fairly routine procedure, and as mentioned earlier usually does not require a hospital stay. Post surgery you will be given a surgical bra to wear to hold your dressing and new nipple in place. Lastly, follow the instructions of your surgeon to ensure the best possible recovery and results.