Reconstruction or not?

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I was diagnosed on 4th Jan with Grade 3 invasive cancer and also DCIS.  The area of trouble is 33 mm across.  Low hormone receptor status (2/8 and 3/8).  HER not known at present.


I was immediately offered a mastectomy and reconstruction.  Will also require sentinel biopsy.  Possible chemotherapy depending on results.


In the general haze of diagnosis shock, I was inclined to go along with reconstruction. Partly, of course, because it’s what they suggest.   Having thought about it, and read the literature I’m not so sure.


I’m a 55 year old married keen gardener and piano player (I earn my living from both, and am self-employed).  I hate wearing a bra and avoid doing so wherever possible (I’m B cup, so can often get away without, especially as much of what I do is working independently.)


I’m very, very squeamish and a thorough coward.  I don’t think I’m up for the repeated surgery that reconstruction offers, especially as the result, however cosmetically satisfactory won’t be, or behave, like a real breast.   I fully recognise that it’s right for some people.  But I’m not sure it is for me.  

I’d be really grateful if anyone can offer their insights, one way or the other.  

I am sorry to intrude, but wanted to thank you all for this really timely and supportive conversation. I am anticipating a unilateral mastectomy when my chemotherapy ends in March (all crossed I stay on schedule).


I have found the online resources from BCC excellent and I have been doing a lot of research and thinking. I will also, of course, be talking with the clinical team about the options and choices. However, there is nothing I value more than hearing from women who have ‘been there’.


I suspect immediate reconstruction may be difficult because I will be going onto radiotherapy afterwards. I am not at all sure I want reconstruction. My reasons are that I have found being a patient really tough and I really don’t want to prolong the experience with more complex/further operations. I also want to be well enough to make my son’s Graduation and get back to work, socialising, exercising etc. Having said that, I am struggling a bit with the implications of being lopsided and adapting to life with a prosthesis. It all feels a bit tough, although that comes and goes (as with so many reactions/emotions to each stage of the breast cancer experience). I have also thought about asking for a bilateral mastectomy partly because I am, in common with many women, scared of recurrence and partly because it might help with symmetry. I don’t know though. I think the most pressing thing for me at the moment is understanding more about unilateral mastectomy, reconstruction decision-making, especially living without reconstruction and adapting to life with one prosthesis whether on a temporary or permanent basis with all the effects on self-esteem, image, identity etc. 


All of which means this thread is a gem and I am beyond thrilled to have found you here. Thanks for reading/listening and for being willing to share your experiences. Susan, I send you all the best for your decision-making and, of course, treatment beyond surgery. I too have just joined Flat Friends, so I hope we might connect there too. 

Just an update to let anyone in touch with this thread know that I saw my BCN today and explained that I had opted for mx with no reconstruction.  It was a hard decision, but it feels right for me, and I am as at peace with it as I can be. The nurse confirmed (as I had feared) that I’ll also need chemotherapy, so at least I know I’ll be able to get on with that sooner than if I’d opted for more complex surgery. 

I was greatly helped in my decision making by this thread of helpful and supportive discussion, and also by the members of the FlatFriends FB group, who were wonderfully generous with personal stories, and also in  sharing pictures of their outcomes, which I found inspirational and heartening.

I’m very touched to know that this thread might also have been useful to others in the same position.  I wish them all the best on their journey.


The thing I am learning, more than anything at present, is how helpful it is to talk to other women who have been through this.   Time on my own to ponder is important,but so is realising how much sharing can help.

Susan xxx