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Ten Reasons Why Breast Reconstruction Is Not a Boob Job!

There are certain topics in Cancer Land that come up time and time again. One of these topics is what you should say or not say to a cancer patient.

Generally, I try not to critique too harshly what people say or do not say because most people mean well. Generally, I try to refrain from suggesting what people should or should not say; well, most of the time anyway. But there is one thing I am pretty darn certain you should not say to a woman facing a mastectomy of any kind, including a prophylactic one.

Do not say, “Gee, at least you get to have a free boob job!” or the other equally distasteful yet often heard question, “You’re going bigger, right?”

Both of these comments are annoying, crass, insensitive, potentially hurtful and simply out of line.

I imagine there are a handful of women out there who do feel ‘lucky’ they had this ‘opportunity’ to get ‘better boobs’. I’m sure there are some who do like their new ones better than their originals.

But trust me, these are not things you want to say to a breast cancer patient, or to a patient trying to avoid breast cancer. Do not say them. Please, just do not!

I realize I am preaching to the choir here, but maybe the message will miraculously trickle out somehow if enough of us keep saying it.

When you need a comeback response, sometimes a list is helpful to pull out of your pocket or your brain, so…

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Ten reasons not to call breast reconstruction a boob job (of course there are more reasons, but I’ll just go with ten for now).

1.  First of all, some breast cancer patients will not be having mastectomies for various reasons (such as stage or tumor size).

In addition, some who will be having a mastectomy are opting out of reconstruction for various and personal reasons. There will be no boob job of any sort. Enough said.

2.  Breast reconstruction is not a boob job.

They are very different procedures. I wrote a post on the differences here.

3.  A boob job goes relatively fast – it’s usually an outpatient procedure.

Breast reconstruction surgery of any type takes hours and often requires multiple surgeries and therefore multiple recoveries. And of course, multiple procedures also create multiple opportunities for complications to occur.

4.  Many women who opt for reconstruction do not reconstruct their nipples, again for various and personal reasons.

Not quite as pretty a picture now is it? And reconstructed nipples have no feeling in them; they are mostly for appearances sake only.

5.  Speaking as an implant recipient, I’ll just say the darn things are heavy and at times quite uncomfortable.

They feel nothing like my originals. They just don’t. I’ll write a more detailed post about this at some point.

5.  When you have a boob job, it’s an enhancement choice, not a salvage job. Big difference.

6.  With breast reconstruction your partner’s sexual pleasure is always often times impacted negatively for obvious reasons, as is your own, for too many reasons to go into here.

Some relationships can handle the changes. Some cannot.

7.  After reconstruction, sometimes it hurts when you are hugged, squeezed or even touched in certain ways.

And yet at the same time, the sensation or feeling in your breasts is gone or greatly reduced, usually for good. Go figure.

9.  I don’t know for sure, but I imagine most women who’ve had boob jobs rather enjoy looking at their new enhanced forms when they shower, get dressed, don that sexy bra or whenever.

On the other hand, some of us who’ve had reconstruction avoid mirrors, struggle to even wear a bra comfortably again and work daily at reclaiming a positive body image. The physical scars are many. The scars fade, of course, but disappear they do not. The emotional scars, the scars we cannot see, can be even tougher to deal with.

10. Oh, and let’s not forget there is that whole cancer thing to contend with.

Breast reconstruction is only the cosmetic component of the cancer treatment plan. Besides the slash, there is also often the burn (radiation) and poison (chemo) to contend with as well. And even for women choosing the prophylactic route, cancer is still the silent lurker in the background.

So no, breast reconstruction, prophylactic or otherwise, is not a woman’s chance to at least get a ‘free’ boob job out of the deal.

Don’t say that. Just don’t. Think of something better to say, or else perhaps it’s best to just keep quiet.

Breast reconstruction is not a boob job, not even close.

Has anyone ever said to you, “At least you get to have a ‘free’ boob job?” or “You’re going bigger, right?”

If you did not choose reconstruction, has anyone ever questioned your decision to opt out?

Do you have a good comeback response to add to this list?

10 reasons why #breastreconstruction is NOT a boob job! #breastcancer #womenshealth

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Want to read more on this topic?

Check out my ebook, Facing Your Mastectomy & Making Reconstruction Decisions

Facing Your Mastectomy & Making Reconstruction Decisions - My New Ebook Is Here!

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Amy Hindman

Wednesday 29th of August 2018

I just discovered your blog recently, and I'm so glad I did. I had a double mastectomy at 36, and many times my friends have said to me things like, "at least you get to have a free boob job," which is the worst. I never would choose to have a boob job for starters. I know they are saying this though to try to find the good in something so unthinkable, like the silver lining, but I just tell them the real story. I'm constantly educating my friends, family, and doctors. I'm skinny, and tissue expanders were the worst pain I experienced in all of my cancer treatment, which was chemo, radiation, the whole nine yards. All of my doctors seem surprised by how "great" they look, but they still seem foreign to me, feel out of place, hurt at times, and are crooked. The standard for reconstruction is whether they look "normal" when wearing a bra, which is unfortunate. It's a lame standard, in my opinion. Should be when not wearing a bra, and so much more. I had a nipple-sparing mastectomy, and I had no idea they would feel the way they do; sometimes I'm not sure if I made the right decision in keeping them at all, but it seemed like a better option. They hurt, often like a bruise, or I get a nauseas feeling at the slightest touch. I'm grateful to be alive, but I miss my boobs, will always miss them. And obviously, absolutely nothing like a "boob job."

Linda Fischer

Thursday 7th of July 2016

I did not want to seem like i was unluck or unblessed so when I had the diagnoses of breast cancer for the 2nd time I fluffed it off to my co workers so when I did have the surgery and it was allot harder this time 11 years difference mad it a lot harder this time around and I have some nerve damage which is subsiding somewhat I know it will take time but for me I would much rather put up with the pain than not have any breast at all. That is my decision and I am over joyed with my breast but I must admit that they are really painful I never had much anyway but I am only to happy to exchange both breasts for a few more years on earth with my family. To each there own I always say and I totally understand where everyone is coming from especially when people choose not to understand what a horrible experience this truly is I would not wish it on my worst enemy. I try to hid my breast with layering my cloths as much as possible because that is all I notice people who know I have a double mastectomy and reconstruction look at I dont blame them I was the same way before I experienced it myself i used to wonder "oh man how can that poor woman live the life she has to live" but I would never ever say that to there faces I have been called a lot of names which really made me loss trust in most women who have not experienced what we are going thru I say oh they do not speak cancer because that is what it is a different language they do not understand anything and they dont want to understand. I hate it when people say "oh think positive" what do they know, they know nothing and they dont want to know anything they live in a world that is not reality but a world the is so superficial i can not believe that they chose to treat breast cancer patients as 2nd class people especially when they say "oh we are here to help you" NOT they are just saying those phrases out of fear that this disease will get them too. It seems like some women say better you than me. I have had the most negative comments from from women. My husband put lotion on spots i can not reach on my chest I was telling one of my co workers and she said oh i am surprised he would even touch it. how unfeeling some people can be is so surprising to me you would think i would be used to it by now!!!!!

Carol Williams

Friday 10th of June 2016

I had 2 lumpectomies and after a recurrence in the radiated boob, more chemo and a double mastectomy on April 19. They went direct to implants ... besides the excruciating pain for 6 weeks all was going well until last Thursday when I ran a fever and spent the next 6 days in the hospital and had to have my infected implants removed. I thought the 105 fever could be the end of me. Now I look like Frankenstein with both implants removed and I don't know where I'll go from here. Your post, as always, is completely on target. All of the brave women who have left comments have helped me learn also ... this is such a lifetime disease, even if there is NED, it's never far from our minds or the pain in our bodies. Thank you for being so honest about what reconstruction is.

Kristy Schnabel

Sunday 17th of April 2016

Thank you, Nancy, so much for this post and to all the brave women above and their stories. My expander box (I agree with the woman who calls it the devil) is over-filled and my next surgery is in a few weeks to remove the box and put in the implant. I don't think I've had a good night's sleep since the box was put in. I'm eager to be free of the box, but so nervous about another surgery and the associated pain. The pain meds just didn't work for me. No matter how many times I explain the box and the saline injections, family members don't get it, and it's frustrating. "It only took Jolie 2 months, why is it taking you so long?" Thank goodness for my breast cancer sisters that "get it." Thank goodness for a husband that has supported me every step of the way. Gentle hugs to you all.

Nancy

Monday 18th of April 2016

Kristy, I like the term 'box' for the expander. It fits. I don't blame you for feeling nervous about your upcoming swap for an implant. It should make things better, but...I'm glad you have a supportive husband. Hope your surgery and recovery go smoothly. Thank you for sharing.

Linda

Monday 8th of February 2016

Thank you so much Nancy for helping to organize all the disjointed thoughts and feelings that have been swirling around in my head about this. I had a mastectomy on the left side in 2007 and went through the first few steps of reconstruction - tissue expander and the subsequent filling of it. After chemo and radiation though, I never went through with the next step of getting the implant. My breasts were obviously asymmetrical for the last 9 years, but after having surgery, chemo and radiation, then a hysterectomy, I couldn't face another medical procedure. My expander ruptured in December and now I have opted for the DIEP reconstruction surgery, but not without a lot of anxiety and trepidation. I find myself reluctant to talk to friends or family about this choice, since clearly some of them think I'm crazy to do it and others think I'm crazy to have waited so long! No, I don't feel lucky that I'm going to get a tummy tuck, it's not something I would ever have chosen to do in other circumstances. Thankfully, my husband is very supportive. Thank you again for the reminder that there are so many women out there going through this and I'm not alone.

Nancy

Tuesday 9th of February 2016

Linda, I totally understand your not wanting to face another medical procedure. I am definitely "in need" of some tweaking, but I don't want to do it right now, so I'm not. Enough is enough. Sorry to hear about the rupture. Good luck with your DIEP surgery. And yes, undoubtedly some will share their unwanted and unhelpful opinions with you. As long as you and your husband feel good about your decision, who cares what anyone else thinks, right? Thank you for sharing.

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