Don’t Want Reconstruction Surgery? The Art Of Doing Nothing

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In the time I have been a breast cancer blogger and coach, I have met many wonderful women who did not want reconstruction surgery.  For them, it just didn’t make sense.  I celebrate their right to choose.

We don’t HAVE to have breasts!  If we have lost one or both breasts to this disease, who says we have to replace them?  Even my own mother-in-law chose against reconstruction surgery (she’s in her 80’s after all, and says “Who’s going to look at my chest besides me?”).

There is no simple answer to this dilemma.  Many factors influence the decision and each woman must evaluate those factors for herself.  Sometimes however, it helps to hear from other women about why they made the choices they made, and how they feel down the road.

Researching for this article was really interesting.  There are quite a few websites or blogs written by survivors who really didn’t want to deal with breast reconstruction and they had a myriad of good reasons why they didn’t wish to.

Here are some of their reasons or concerns.

Some Good Reasons to Choose Against Reconstruction

  • They didn’t want another operation which they felt was unnecessary;
  • They were unhappy with having an implant or ‘foreign object’ in their body or using muscle from another part of the body to create a breast form;
  • For some, distance from the hospital or doctor performing the surgery was a big problem;
  • Some felt have reconstruction surgery might bring risks of further complications (like infection) and after battling cancer, they just didn’t want to risk it;
  • Several younger women with children said that caring for their children was their main concern and because reconstructive surgery would involve a long operation and recovery, they would not have the time and energy they’d need to care for their children after coming out of the hospital.  A couple of women chose to wait until their children were older;
  • Several women said they were comfortable with how they looked — they didn’t want any more surgery and preferred instead to wear a breast form;
  • Many older women in their 70’s and 80’s chose against reconstruction because it just didn’t worry them not to have a breast (or both) missing.  They were completely at peace with their decision and their body shape.

For those of you considering a breast form, here’s a little information for you.

Breast Forms

A breast form (prosthesis) is worn either inside a bra or attached to the body.  It has the appearance and feel of a natural breast.  For women who have had a mastectomy, breast forms can be an important alternative to breast reconstruction. Most of these forms are made from materials that mimic the movement, feel, and weight of natural tissue.  A properly weighted form provides the balance your body needs for correct posture and anchors your bra, keeping it from riding up.

Prices vary considerably for prostheses and a high price doesn’t necessarily mean that the product is the best one for you.  Take your time to shop for comfort, good fit, and a natural appearance in the bra and under clothing. Your clothes should fit the way they did before your mastectomy.

Many women feel Amoena is a good brand.  Here’s a good article from cancer.net about choosing a breast prosthesis.

The advantages of having a breast prosthesis are (1) they may give you a more natural shape under clothes, (2) they may give a more “balanced” look, (3) they do not require surgery, and (4) if your natural breast size changes, you can buy a new prosthesis.

There are a few disadvantages, however – (1) you may be less comfortable in revealing clothes than if you had reconstructive surgery, (2) it may be less convenient to do certain things, such as playing active sports, than if you had reconstruction (one swimmer I know had her prosthesis fall out during a competition and that embarrassed her terribly), (3) a  prosthesis may be heavy, feel hot, and move around inside the bra, (4) it’s hard to scratch an itch underneath a prosthesis.

The Art of Doing Nothing

There is an art to choosing not to have breast reconstruction.  You will, at some point, feel the need to explain your decision to curious friends or family members.  I suggest you come up with an answer you are comfortable with and then just stick by it.  Everyone will respect your decision – or most will, and if they don’t that’s their problem, not yours!

Here are a few options for doing nothing:

  • If you have no breasts, no problem – you don’t need a bra.  If you still have one, however, and you wish to support it, you will still need to buy a bra that fits well.  Just stuff the other side (or both sides) with padding that won’t fall out if you want a balanced look.
  • Wear a bandeau style bra if you have a surviving small breast – they are comfortable and will still provide you with support.
  • One woman I know who had a single mastectomy wears a sports bra that’s very stretchy and provides her one breast with sufficient support and the other side clings to her body just fine.  She doesn’t care about appearing lop-sided.

Here’s a nice video by Megan, 58, who chose against breast reconstruction and is quite happy with her body shape.

Ultimately, the choice is yours.  It’s your body and only YOU can choose what makes sense for you.  Talk to your doctor, talk to your family, and then be at peace with your decision.

I send my love to everyone taking this journey right now. If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com) and I’ll do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.  

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