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Home > Cosmetic & Plastic Surgery Procedures > Breast Reconstruction > Part 5

Breast reconstruction plastic surgery

To get answers to the most frequent questions about breast reconstruction plastic surgery, breast cancer, mammogrphy, and various physical activities, please select one of the links below:

Are breast implants associated with an increased risk of breast cancer?

While there has been much discussion of this issue, a recent study of over 4000 women showed that breast implants do not appear to be associated with an increased risk of subsequent breast cancer.

Breast reduction surgery also does not appear to be associated with an increased risk of future breast cancer. (Reference: Brinton, L.A., et. al. Breast Enlargement and Reduction: Results from a Breast Cancer Case-Control Study Plast. Reconstr. Surg. 97: 269 1996).


When can I resume normal activity?

After placement of the implant, sedentary activities can be resumed within the first week, and most other activities can be resumed after about three weeks. Some plastic surgeons restrict activities involving significant use of the pectoralis muscles for several months following implant placement.

Expander-implant photo 1 Expander-implant photo 2
Right breast reconstruction with
expander-implant technique.
(J. O'Connell, M.D.)


Will I need mammograms after reconstruction?

The opposite breast will require routine surveillance with breast self-exam, physician exam and mammography.

With regard to the reconstructed breast, self-examination is again the key and should be supplemented with regular examinations by a physician familiar with breast reconstruction and breast cancer surveillance.

We also advise performing mammograms on the reconstructed breast including additional tangential views, especially for those patients whose tumors contained microcalcifications. The same schedule should be used for the opposite side. (Reference: Dowden, R.V., Mammography after Implant Breast Reconstruction. Plast. Reconstr. Surg. 96: 119, 1995)


Does implant reconstruction prevent detection of local recurrence of breast cancer?

After mastectomy six to ten percent of patients will likely develop a local recurrence of their cancer. The tissues where a recurrence is most likely to occur are located in the area between the skin and the pectoral muscle.

In unreconstructed breasts, mammography cannot be performed and local recurrences are detected by close examination. Because implants used in breast reconstruction are usually placed behind the pectoral muscle, examination can still be performed, and reconstruction can actually facilitate surveillance because it allows for mammography.

A study of 101 patients who underwent immediate breast reconstruction at Duke University revealed no discernible adverse affect on the natural course of surgically managed breast cancer. (Reference: Georgiade, G.S., et. al. Long-Term Clinical Outcome of Immediate Reconstruction after Mastectomy Plast. Reconstr. Surg. 76: 416, 1985.)


Can mammography rupture my breast implant?

Yes. It's possible that mammography can rupture a breast implant even when the mammogram is performed only on the opposite side; however, rupture is unlikely. (Reference: Pay, A.D., Kenealy, J. Breast Implant rupture Following Contralateral Mammography Plast. Reconstr. Surg. 99: 1734 1997).


Will I be able to feel the implant?

Most patients quickly incorporate the implant into their body image and don't notice its presence just as with a contact lens. The implant itself can, of course, be felt by examination, and the edge of the implant is readily palpable.

Very thin women will be able to feel the implant edges as well as see wrinkling of the implant, particularly with contraction of the chest muscles. This problem can sometimes be improved by the use of silicone gel implants.


Can I go on an airplane with a tissue expander and/or breast implant?

Yes. This question has been the subject of some folklore. In 1990 it was shown that breast implants can feel tight and firm to the touch during long airplane flights and during ascents and descents. This effect is most likely due to small amounts of air present within the implant which expands as a result of changes in cabin pressure. (Reference: Lovich, S.F., Meland, N. B. Breast Implants and Air Flight Plast. Reconstr. Surg. 86: 172 1990).


Can I go SCUBA diving with a breast implant?

Yes. It is safe for patients with breast implants to participate in recreational diving.


To contact Connecticut plastic surgeon Dr. Joseph B. O'Connell about any cosmetic surgery procedures, please fill out our contact form or call us at (203) 454-0044.

Plastic Surgery of Southern Connecticut
208 Post Road West • Westport, CT 06680
Phone: 203-454-0044 • Email:

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