Nipple Reconstruction; The finishing Touch
One of the most common concerns we hear from patients, and their partners, after a breast cancer diagnosis, is “what about my nipples?”. Each week we meet with patients who have just been diagnosed with various forms of breast cancer, or who have tested positive for the breast cancer gene and are considering a mastectomy. Breast cancer is scary enough, so the thought of losing your breasts can make it more difficult, and for most patients, it is a life-changing decision, often times that must be made very quickly. It is not uncommon that before we even begin discussing reconstruction options with patients, the question about nipple options comes up first. There are several different options when it comes to keeping, or reconstructing your nipples, and it is important that patients understand all of them!
With a mastectomy, there are several factors that dictate whether or not a patient may be a candidate for what’s called nipple-sparing, which is when you get to keep your own nipple and areola. These can include whether the tumor is very close to, or directly involves the nipple, how low the nipple sits on the breast and whether they point downward, as well as how anxious a patient may be about keeping them because it means leaving behind some of the native breast, while the rest is removed. If patients fall into one of those categories, and keeping your nipple is not an option, then they will be removed at the time of surgery and depending on the type of reconstruction a patient has, it will dictate the scar pattern left behind. It is important that we go into surgery with a plan, so that when you wake up, you are prepared for what your new breasts will look like.
If you are not a candidate for keeping your nipples, there will be two options down the road for nipple reconstruction. The first is where we fold your own skin, and make a real, projecting nipple. With this option, you will need time to heal, and once the nipple is fully healed, our tattoo artist will then apply color to the nipple and create the areola around it with the inked color. The other option is to forego having a nipple made, and instead, our high-skilled tattoo artist will design what is called a 3D nipple tattoo, which has the illusion of a nipple, but lays flat on your skin. He will work with you to determine the perfect placement, and color shade either similar to what you had before surgery, or perhaps you always wanted something darker, or lighter, and that’s ok! Alternatively, we have had many patients choose to forego either of these options, and instead worked a tattoo artist to create custom works of art on the breasts and chest. These works of art have ranged from hearts, stars, and flowers for nipples, to full chest pieces that extend to other parts of the body. Ultimately, the choice is yours, but Dr. Snyder always encourages patients to proceed with some sort of finishing touch, to help you feel whole again. This last step often helps patients to mentally close out a tough chapter in their lives, and move forward, without feeling like a piece of you is missing.
Dr. Ned Snyder and his entire team at Snyder Plastic Surgery at the Breast and Body Center of Austin are here to help guide you through these decisions and inform you of all of your options! We have plenty of photos of your options to share with you at your consultation and help you to make the best decision for you, and your health! Contact us today to schedule your consultation and let us help to reNEW you!