Breast Reconstruction

Most likely, you know someone that has dealt with the instance of breast cancer. Breast cancer is the most common cancer worldwide, surpassing lung cancer for the first time in 2020—and continues to be the most common cancer diagnosed in American women. What you may know about the treatment of breast cancer is that it doesn’t have to stop at the removal of cancer itself, and can continue with a road to recovery with the art of Breast Reconstruction. Women who have had surgery to remove an entire breast to treat or prevent breast cancer have the option of having the shape of the removed breast rebuilt in Grand Rapids. This isn’t just a procedure we take incredible pride in, as it helps patients overcome the physical and mental hurdle that awaits them with cancer recovery. Women who choose to have their breasts rebuilt have several options for how it can be done, which Dr. Ewa Timek and her team of dedicated technicians are here to make a reality for you. This page is dedicated to informing you about the amazing results that Breast Reconstruction can offer and if you may be a candidate for the procedure.

Woman in white sports bra examining her breasts
Woman in white bra examining her breasts

What is breast reconstruction?

Many women who have been diagnosed with Breast Cancer undergo Mastectomy, which is the treatment to remove the entire breast that has been diagnosed. With Breast Reconstruction in Grand Rapids, the breast can be rebuilt using implants that are saline or silicone. They can also be rebuilt using autologous tissue, which is a medical term for tissue that is elsewhere in the body. In some cases, implants and autologous tissue are used together to rebuild the breast.

Most patients from Advanced Plastic Surgery who opt to reconstruct their breasts have the procedure done after the Mastectomy incisions have healed and breast cancer therapy has been completed. In the final phase of Breast Reconstruction, a nipple and areola may be re-created on the reconstructed breast if these were not preserved prior to the Mastectomy. Sometimes, Breast Reconstruction surgery from Dr. Ewa Timek includes surgery on the other, or contralateral, breast so that the two breasts will match in size and shape. Our skilled team can design a Breast Reconstruction procedure to meet the unique needs and desires of the individual patients we treat.

What are the Benefits of Breast Reconstruction?

The loss of breast tissue caused by a lumpectomy or mastectomy can negatively impact confidence. This is why Advanced Plastic Surgery is so dedicated to Breast Reconstruction and its amazing benefits for our patients. Reconstruction offers many women the opportunity to regain control of their body and self-image following the emotional journey through breast cancer diagnosis and surgery. The procedure can return the affected breasts back to a natural appearance. Some of the phenomenal benefits we have found our patients experiencing firsthand are: 

  • Chest looks balanced while wearing a bra or swimsuit
  • Clothes fit better
  • Permanent regain in breast shape
  • Self Confidence is restored

Who are the Best Candidates for Breast Reconstruction?

If you received a Mastectomy, and your journey has to lead you to the moment you are ready to gain your life back after a taxing and vigorous experience, then Breast Reconstruction may be exactly what you need. The best candidates for Breast Reconstruction are women who are ready to seize back what they feel was taken away. Other instances that can make you our next prospect for Breast Reconstruction could be:

  • You are able to cope well with your diagnosis and treatment
  • You do not have additional medical conditions or other illnesses that may impair healing
  • You have a positive outlook and realistic goals for restoring your breast and body image
“I am confident, we can make you whole again”

– Ewa Timek, MD


Types of Breast Reconstruction

Breast reconstruction is achieved through several plastic surgery techniques that attempt to restore a breast to near-normal shape, appearance, and size following mastectomy or lumpectomy. The creation of a new breast can dramatically improve a woman’s self-image, self-confidence, and quality of life. Breast reconstruction is a physically and emotionally rewarding procedure for a woman who has lost a breast due to cancer or other condition. Restoration of the breast shape is a highly individualized procedure. The surgical techniques may employ implants and/or the patient’s own tissues and frequently require multiple steps. During your consultation, Doctor Timek will advise you on which reconstructive modality is best for your anatomy.

Tissue expander and implant-based reconstruction

A common breast reconstructive technique is tissue expansion, which involves an expansion of the breast skin and muscle using a temporary tissue expander. A breast tissue expander is an inflatable breast implant designed to save the unique breast skin and stretch the skin and muscle to make room for a breast mount. During the initial step, a tissue expander is placed following a mastectomy. Through a tiny valve mechanism located inside the expander, the doctor periodically injects a salt-water solution to gradually fill the expander over several weeks. You may feel a sensation of stretching and pressure in the breast area during this procedure, but most women find it not too uncomfortable. A few months later, the expander is removed and the patient receives either the insertion of a permanent breast implant or the transfer of her own tissues. This type of breast reconstruction requires at least two separate operations. Typically, the last phase of breast reconstruction involves the creation of the nipple-areola complex followed by tattooing. 

Autologous tissue transfer

When the breast is reconstructed entirely with the patient’s own tissue, the results are generally more natural and there are no concerns about problems with implants. The metabolism of the new breast becomes similar to the rest of the body, for instance, it undergoes the same weight fluctuations following the patient eight change. Using a patient’s own tissues is usually associated with contour improvement of the area the tissue was taken from, for instance, a TRAM flap also has the added benefit of improved abdominal contour.

TRAM flap — In TRAM (Transverse Rectus Abdominis Myocutaneous) flap surgery, the breast(s) is (are) created by transferring tissue from the tummy. During the operation, the tissue remains attached to its original site, retaining its blood supply within the rectus abdominis muscle (“the six-pack muscle”). The flap, consisting of the skin, fat, and muscle with its blood supply, is tunneled beneath the skin to the chest creating the breast mound itself. This operation was originally devised decades ago and has been since modified to increase its reliability and decrease related problems. Dr. Timek has a vast experience in free tissue transfer from the abdomen, such as muscle-sparing TRAM, DIEP, and SIEA flaps. These flaps spare the rectus abdominis muscle normally sacrificed during the traditional TRAM flap operation.

Free muscle-sparing TRAM, DIEP, and SIEA flaps –The muscle-sparing free flap from the tummy is a technique where skin and tissue with a minimal amount of muscle (muscle-sparing TRAM) or no muscle (DIEP, Deep Inferior Epigastric artery Perforator, and SIEA, Superficial Inferior Epigastric Artery) are taken from the abdomen in order to recreate the breast. This procedure is commonly performed as women generally have excess skin and fat along the lower portion of their abdomen. Additionally, the patients like the benefit of a “tummy tuck.”

Fat grafting — Fat grafting, also known as lipofilling or fat transfer, is a newer technique applied in breast reconstruction as an adjunct or sole procedure for recreating the breast shape and form. Fat can be taken from another part of your body, like the abdomen, thighs, or buttocks, through liposuction. The fat is purified and carefully layered within the new breast to create the desired shape. Fat graft is used to correct contour deficiencies of breasts after reconstructions with implants or flaps. Lipofilling is also the preferred reconstructive method for certain lumpectomy defects. 

Autologous tissue transfer and implant

Latissimus dorsi reconstruction — The latissimus dorsi (LD) flap is one of the standard methods for breast reconstruction. The latissimus dorsi flap is most commonly combined with a tissue expander or implant, to give the surgeon additional options and more control over the aesthetic appearance of the reconstructed breast. This flap provides a source of soft tissue that can help create a more natural-looking breast shape as compared to an implant alone. During the surgery, the LD flap, consisting of the skin, fat, and muscle with its blood supply, is tunneled beneath the skin to the front chest creating the breast mound itself.  Occasionally, for a thin patient with a small breast volume, the latissimus dorsi flap can be used alone as the primary reconstruction without the need for an implant. Many surgeons will resort to the use of a latissimus dorsi flap as a backup option if a patient has wound healing problems or soft tissue failure in the setting of an implant. The latissimus dorsi flap can also be used as a salvage procedure for patients who have had previous radiation, and are not candidates for other procedures using the patient’s own tissues.   

After lumpectomy — Breast cancer treatment may consist of multiple modalities including breast conservation surgery (lumpectomy). During lumpectomy, the cancer with adjacent breast tissue is removed to provide an adequate margin around the tumor. Most commonly, the breast is subsequently treated with radiation. The combination of tumor excision resulting in the creation of a cavity with scarring and radiation treatment may lead to an alteration of breast shape. Location, degree of scarring, and thus resulting deformity can vary. Therefore, there is no uniform therapeutic strategy to recreate a satisfactory breast shape. Doctor Timek has vast experience in the management of breast deformities after lumpectomy including the application of tissue rearrangement and fat grafting techniques. 


What’s The First Step?


Much like many of our procedures, the first step to getting Breast Reconstruction in Grand Rapids is realistic expectations about what this procedure can and can’t do for your appearance and understanding the best options available for your specific needs. It all beings with a consultation with Dr. Ewa Timek and our dedicated team.

During the consultation, we examine several factors influencing the type of reconstructive surgery to be chosen. These decisions include the size and shape of the breast that is being rebuilt, the woman’s age and health, her history of past surgeries, surgical risk factors, the availability of autologous tissue, and the placement of the nipple or areola. Each type of reconstruction has elements that a woman should consider before making a decision; this is what makes the clarity of consultation so important. Our team is here to help you understand the procedure in detail, paving the way for a successful and beneficial reconstruction.


What to Expect on the Day of Breast Reconstruction

There are many different reconstruction techniques available for patients, and the day of your reconstruction may look unique depending on which method Dr. Ewa Timek believes is the most successful for you. There are two main techniques for reconstructing your breast; both methods are used with anesthesia. 

Implant reconstruction: Advanced Plastic Surgery Inserts an implant that’s filled with saline or silicone gel. This procedure tends to be a shorter surgical technique than reconstruction with autologous tissue. In the implant process, an incision is made and the implant is inserted into the desired area or pocket. Implants are usually placed as part of a two-stage procedure.

In the first stage, we use a device called a tissue expander. The expander is slowly filled with saline during periodic visits. In the second stage, after the chest tissue has relaxed and healed enough, the expander is removed and replaced with an implant. The chest tissue is usually ready for the implant two to six months after the expansion. You will likely have several drains near your incision, these help with healing. Drains are usually removed in the first few weeks after the implant is placed. 

Autologous or “flap” reconstruction: Using tissue transplanted from another part of your body; this can be from your belly, thigh, or back. To do this, your surgeon transplants your live skin, fat, blood vessels, and muscle to the upper chest. It requires precise incisions that can leave slight scarring. This surgery may offer results that feel softer and more natural to the touch than implants.

​​*Some women who do not have surgical nipple reconstruction may consider getting a realistic picture of a nipple created on the reconstructed breast from a tattoo artist who specializes in 3-D nipple tattooing; this is usually done after the reconstruction. 

We advise that you arrange help with a ride to and from your Breast Reconstruction, as well as a helping hand at home for a week or two after your surgery. 

Breast Reconstruction Recovery

The length of recovery depends on the type of reconstruction that is performed. Following your Breast Reconstruction surgery for flap techniques or the insertion of a breast implant, gauze or bandages may be applied to your incisions. An elastic bandage or support bra will minimize swelling and support the reconstructed breast. A small, thin tube may be temporarily placed under the skin to drain any excess blood or fluid. 

Our team will supply a recovery plan that includes valuable information and access to pain medications. Most women can start to get back to normal activities within six to eight weeks. If implants are used without flaps, your recovery time may be shorter. It’s vital to understand that certain types of reconstruction surgery do not restore normal sensations to your breast, but for other kinds, some feelings might return over time.

Woman in white bra examining her breasts

Average Cost

how much does breast reconstruction cost in grand rapids?

At Advanced Plastic Surgery, cost questions, breakdowns, and transparency is essential to us. We aim to help you understand exactly what your costs will look like based on the procedure approach. During your consultation, we can answer questions and provide you with our expert recommendations on the most cost-effective plan to move forward with your Breast Reconstruction. The Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act of 1998 (WHCRA) is a federal law that requires group health plans and health insurance companies that offer mastectomy coverage to also pay for reconstructive surgery after mastectomy. Contact your health provider today for more information on this issue.

Why Choose
Advanced Plastic Surgery

At Advanced Plastic Surgery, our attention to detail is led by Grand Rapids’ most dedicated and devoted team, providing procedures with state-of-the-art equipment in a safe and caring atmosphere. We understand that most patients have already gone through an emotional journey when arriving for Breast Reconstruction; we are here to listen and offer the solution you have been searching for. This is why so many come to Dr. Ewa Timek, as it requires a professional touch to insert an implant or use the Autologous method for such an important procedure. Skill and dedication are what you met with at Advanced Plastic Surgery, and in this case, we can’t wait to help define a new chapter of your life after cancer. When you walk through the doors of Advanced Plastic Surgery, you will be welcomed by our warm, caring staff that attends to your individual needs. We have seen Breast Reconstruction change lives; it’s time for a new beginning, and it can start today.

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​​Studies have shown that Breast Reconstruction can help to improve body image, and self-esteem and enhance the quality of life. We hope this page instilled the assurance you need to initiate a call to our office to get started on feeling comfortable and whole, decreasing psychological distress, and thinking less about past breast cancer. Breast Reconstruction can be overwhelming, we are here to make it straightforward as possible. Contact Us today to learn more or schedule your constitution.

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We’re here to help, with a number of patient resources designed to make your experience as comfortable as possible. Read through the materials below, and don’t hesitate to reach out.

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