There has been tremendous publicity surrounding Angelina Jolie’s decision to go public with her decision to have a double mastectomy. It has helped to increase the profile of breast cancer and the BRCA gene and has empowered women around the world. So what sort of reconstruction has Angelina Jolie opted to go for? You would have thought that the likes of Angelina Jolie would have had the very best reconstruction available, wouldn’t you? I frequently get people in the clinic saying that they want the best reconstruction please, but in fact there is no ‘best’ reconstruction.
What is the ‘best’ breast reconstruction?
The best breast reconstruction is different for different people. It depends on your age, your medical history, your body shape, your breast shape, your job, your expectations and your social circumstances. The fact is that everyone wants the best breast reconstruction. It is the job of you and your surgeon to have a full and frank discussion (and often more than one discussion) to go through your goals and expectations and the options available to discover what is best for you. There are many ways of reconstructing the breast and if there was one best way, we would all just do that one.
So what breast reconstruction has Angelina Jolie had?
Angelina Jolie has had a bilateral breast reconstruction using implants and allograft. Allograft is a sheet of material derived from another animal (usually pig or cow), used to cover the implant. This is probably the shortest operation of all of the bilateral reconstructions, although it is often done as a staged procedure so may need more than one operation. It has the benefit of not leaving any scars anywhere else other than the breast and so complications are potentially less because there is no ‘donor site’ associated with reconstructions that use your own tissue (flaps). When people think of breast implants, they think of well known celebrities who have had breast enlargement, this is not the same as when implants are used for breast reconstruction. Breast enlargement involves enhancing the natural breast, whereas, when implants are used for reconstruction there is no breast to enhance, so the shape comes completely from the implant. For this reason, I always use teardrop implants for reconstruction as the shape of the breast following an implant reconstruction is the shape of the implant. The results are often good in a bra, but the breast lacks the natural movement of breast tissue and can often feel quite firm and high, however it is ideal for women with small, pert breasts and for women having a bilateral reconstruction (both sides), like Angelina Jolie. The benefits are that the surgery is shorter, the recovery is quicker and there are no scars elsewhere on the body, other than the breast. Perhaps this is why Angelina Jolie has chosen it, as it is probably the best option if you want minimum downtime and need to get back on your feet to look after children or work.
This lady is shown 5 months following double mastectomy and reconstruction with implants and allograft.