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Why Breast Reconstruction Is Not A Boob Job!

There are many reasons why breast reconstruction is NOT a boob job. This particular post is an attempt to cover just one of these reasons. Breast reconstruction is not a boob job because quite literally – breast reconstruction is not a boob job.

I’m stating and then restating the obvious to make a point; breast reconstruction and “boob jobs” are very different procedures done for very different reasons.

Seems like a no-brainer, right?

Well then, why do so many women facing mastectomy decisions (including prophylactic) keep hearing things like, well at least you’ll get to have a “free” boob job.

Yes, getting new “permanently perky reconstructed breasts” is still too often portrayed as an amusing, even fun “benefit” of breast cancer.

Of course, reality is quite different isn’t it? For a dose of that, click here.

I hate to admit it, but even I got caught up in this misguided thinking. And it is misguided.

I remember very clearly a stupid offhand comment I made to dear daughter one day shortly after my cancer diagnosis during that time of appointment frenzy that went something along the lines of:  well, at least maybe I’ll get better boobs out of this mess. Shame on me, right? The really odd thing is, I don’t care much for the word boob and I never use it. Well, almost never. That whole conversation was very weird and out of character for me, but then again, so was/is cancer.

Clearly that comment was way off base, further off than I ever could have imagined back then. Clearly I was trying too hard to make light of a not-at-all-light situation. Clearly I was over-compensating for some crazy reason. Clearly I was under-informed. Clearly I was so wrong!

Most clearly of all, I was masking my true feeling at the time – fear. And let me tell you, I was darn scared.

I have heard comments from time to time about this “free boob job benefit” that supposedly often accompanies a breast cancer surgery, or a prophylactic mastectomy as well. I’ve even heard a few (very few) women who’ve had breast reconstruction state publicly that they like their new breasts better. Hmm….seriously?

I can’t fathom such a thing.

I do not feel that way. At all. I miss my originals. A lot.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but the term “boob job” more often than not, means breast augmentation. (Because bigger is always better, right? Wrong! More on that later). However, it can also refer to breast reduction or a breast lift. I have a friend who has done augmentation. I also have a friend who has had breast reduction. Choosing either procedure is a very personal matter and nobody else’s darn business.

There still seems to be considerable confusion for some about the differences between a “boob job” (going with augmentation assumption here) and breast reconstruction.

The purpose of this particular post is to clarify the basic differences between these two very different procedures.

What exactly is a boob job breast augmentation?

Please keep in mind I’m attempting to keep both of these explanations brief, but accurate.

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons states the definition of breast augmentation, or as it’s clinically referred to, augmentation mammaplasty, on their website to be the following:

Breast augmentation is the surgical placement of breast implants to increase fullness and projection of the breasts or to improve symmetry of the breasts.

Breast augmentation is usually an outpatient surgery. It’s a cosmetic procedure with immediate results. The scars are in most cases pretty undetectable, there are generally few complications and recovery time is usually complete after a few weeks.

Without minimizing the procedure (it is surgery after all), it is quite different from breast reconstruction following a mastectomy.

What is breast reconstruction?

The same website describes breast reconstruction with the following statement:

Breast reconstruction is achieved through several plastic surgery techniques that attempt to restore a breast to near normal shape, appearance and size following mastectomy. Although breast reconstruction can rebuild your breast, the results are highly variable.

The two definitions do a pretty good job explaining the differences, especially if you read between the lines a bit.

Though often times breast reconstruction is done immediately following mastectomy, the entire process from beginning to end can still take months. Even with immediate reconstruction (utilizing most common implant option) at the time of the mastectomy, temporary tissue expanders are put in place first and then filled slowly over weeks and even months allowing the skin to stretch slowly and somewhat less painfully. At the determined time, another surgery follows during which the expanders are removed and implants are put in place.

Sometimes reconstruction is delayed for months, even years for various reasons such as more pressing cancer treatment, side effects, radiated skin damage issues, personal choice and others.

And of course, some women choose not to do reconstruction at all. All choices women make about their own bodies are personal matters and need no further judgment by others. This cannot be stated often enough IMO.

In addition to implants, there are other various surgical options available for reconstruction such as DIEP, Latissimus Dorsi, TRAM, TUG and GAP flap techniques. These procedures are even more complex and carry greater risk for complications. After reconstructing the “basic” breast(s), there are options for nipple reconstruction as well, which of course require a woman to consider further surgery, more risk, additional expense and still more recovery time. And then there’s the tattooing option…

In short, compared to breast augmentation, breast reconstruction is a far longer and much windier road. It’s more risky, requires considerable more recovery time, carries potential for more complications (which can and sometimes do arise) and again, the results are highly variable.

Of course along with the breast reconstruction, there is often additional cancer treatment to deal with, not to mention the unilateral or bilateral mastectomy itself. And women who choose prophylactic mastectomies deal with the same issues, minus the cancer treatment parts of course. Choosing this option is their attempt to avoid those parts. Again, no judgment needed. Regardless, it’s a lot to throw at any woman.

So breast reconstruction following mastectomy sure as heck is no boob job, not even close. 

Have you ever heard the comment, “Well at least you get (got) a free boob job”?

How do/did you react to such a remark? 

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Breast reconstruction is not a boob job!

stained-glass artwork by Laurie Bieze

Are you facing a mastectomy and reconstruction decisions soon? My ebook can help. Read more about it here.

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

Monica

Tuesday 2nd of November 2021

Oh yeah. I found out the best way to stop the "boob job" comment is to reply " You mean my amputation?" Because that is what it is! They remove a body part, maybe 2, plus sometimes lymph nodes. Just because they leave skin and perhaps a nipple, doesnt make it less than that. It may be easier to live without boobs than an arm, leg or eye, but it is gone. And if your body part is a secondary sexual point, you've lost that as well. Because if you cut off the TV's plug, its not going to work the way it used to. In the case of the breast, all the nerves are severed, and you can touch, adjust as much as you want, but its no longer making the connections it once could. Yes, its certainally complicated. Im on my 10th year since my BMX, and my 7th since I finished reconstruction, thanks to infections and 7 operations, ( bmx, 1st TE out, TE reinsertion, out, reinsert, out and finally squishies) It is certainaly doable, but it is not simply a boob job. Thanks for making that Point, Nancy!

Nancy

Tuesday 9th of November 2021

Monica, I agree wholeheartedly. Amputation is a better fitting word, as far as I'm concerned. Sorry you had to go through all that stuff. Doable, but not a boob job. Again, totally agree. Thank you for reading and sharing some of your experience too.

MaryAnn Miller

Thursday 17th of January 2019

It’ will be a year from surgery to when I can think of removing the implant and have reconstruction. Lymph nodes and breast removed from left side leaving area numb and painful even after all this time. People continue tell me, because of my age (75) they wouldn’t have reconstruction. It’s like a slap in the face because I am other wise healthy and plan on living another 20 years.

Nancy

Friday 18th of January 2019

MaryAnn, I'm sorry others have told you things that are hurtful. That's a shame. You have the right to pursue whatever options are available to you regarding reconstruction. Thank you for sharing. My best to you.

Rachael Zevecke

Sunday 30th of December 2018

Thank you for this piece. I must admit when facing the mastectomy and reconstruction choice, I too naively thought I was getting a boob job. I honestly feel like my surgery team let me believe that and didn't point off the two where ENTIRELY different. I quickly realized after surgeries they were nothing alike. I miss my naturals almost everyday and it's been almost four years. My biggest pet peeve is when someone says " at least you got a free boob job" . It instantly enrages me. My typical response (no matter where I am) is to pull up my shirt, flex my deformed and incredibly animated breasts and simply ask " Is this a boob job you would like to have done?' " Would you be satisfied with this freebie?"

I will pull them out anywhere and since they are missing nipples they are lewd... right?

Nancy

Friday 4th of January 2019

Rachael, I hear you. Boy, do I. And I bet you've shocked a few people into silence!

lopsided blogger

Saturday 12th of November 2016

The two are nowhere near each other. For a mastectomy, they take away as much as they can first--that means you can end up concave and that can extend to under your whole armpit. So they are starting with a deficit of skin and flesh to begin with. Then you might have to add radiation to that, and the skin that's left is not like normal skin at all. Sadly, most reconstruction techniques aren't even close--that's what people should know. I've listened to the comment in question quite a few times from some smart people who just don't know the reality.

Rachel

Thursday 10th of November 2016

Dear Nancy, thank you for admitting that you made the same comment. When I was much younger and stupider, I made a similar (not verbatim) comment to a dear friend and coworker, who was kind and gracious enough to explain to me why the additional surgery was such a burden (she is also a nurse). Almost 15 years later, she still is a friend, and I inwardly cringe every time I see a post like this and remember when I was such an ill-informed clod.

Nancy

Friday 11th of November 2016

Rachel, Thank you for sharing that. The fact this topic still makes you cringe indicates to me you're a very sensitive person and definitely not a clod. I'm glad to hear your friend was so kind about the matter and it's wonderful you're still friends.

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