Summary: After recovering from breast trauma caused by breast cancer or a preventative mastectomy—or other types of trauma—the decision to have reconstructive surgery can be trying and difficult. There are so many emotions connected to each and every option, exacerbated by the exhaustion and tension of the situation. To help alleviate some of the extra stress caused by the decision making process some plastic surgeons have developed a guide to help illustrate those decisions and make it easier for patients to see how they can get where they want to go.

breast procedures

So Many Decisions, So Little Energy

Dealing with a breast cancer diagnosis can be draining. Getting better might require every ounce of energy you have. That might leave little mental energy left for concerns like breast reconstruction surgery. And that becomes important because breast reconstruction surgery isn’t for everyone. In fact, even if you do decide to move ahead with reconstruction, there are more decisions: same size or bigger size, reconstructed nipple of tattoo nipple, and so on. These decisions can be burdensome, coming as they are during an incredibly stressful time.

Everyone has a Different Good Decision

That’s why plastic surgeons and researchers have developed a technique for helping women reach a “good decision.” Published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the idea of providing a decision analysis framework seeks to simplify and rationalize the decision making process when it comes to breast reconstruction, so that patients can be as assured as possible that they are making a decision that is best for them.

Consulting for Answers

During a consultation with a plastic surgeon—during which the options and possible consequences of every decision are discussed—the patient will create a decision tree in order to illustrate the short term and long term strengths and weaknesses of those decisions. These types of decision trees are actually fairly common, and you can see them in all sorts of business and personal settings—ranging in importance from when to get breast reconstruction surgery to what television show to watch or what to order from Starbucks.

Pathway to Success

It’s worth emphasizing that this analysis does not set out to replace personal instincts, decisions, or morals. The decision tree will not make your decision for you. Rather, the goal of the analysis is to illustrate as clearly as possible what your desires might be and how you ultimately get there. Indeed, according the website of New Jersey breast reconstruction experts at East Coast Advanced Plastic Surgery, one method of reconstruction does not fit everybody.

So this analysis is really designed to inform the progression of treatments and agree on an endpoint. It’s also worth noting that this decision tree is not static—your decisions remain fluid until the day of surgery and sometimes even afterward.

So Many Options

But making these decisions and having some clarity about your desired outcome are important to keep in mind. The decision to have reconstructive surgery is a popular one, because it often allows you to feel like your old self again—or at least, close to it. But it may require additional surgeries down the road. Likewise, some women choose to forgo reconstructive surgery, and others still choose to delay it until they have recovered from the ordeal of cancer treatments more fully—establishing the normality of life before engaging in more surgery.

It may depend, too, whether the mastectomy was preventative or in reaction to a possible cancer diagnosis. Again, we see that there is a multitude of variables that might sway a woman’s decision one way or another. The end result, though, is always to have a body that you’re happy with, that you can live with, and that will let you live the life you want to live. That’s what plastic surgeons who offer breast reconstruction surgeries are after as well, and that’s what the decision analysis is designed to help produce.

Happiness and Quality of Life

It’s not a stretch, then, to say that plastic surgeons will continue to help women who overcome breast cancer, or who choose to have a preventative mastectomy, navigate the sometimes uncertain waters of recovery. Because sometimes how we handle recovery can have a direct impact on how we live the rest of our lives.