Ask the Doctor: Smoking, Risks During Reconstruction, Researching Your Options

Ask the Doctor July 18This week, Dr. Richard Kline of The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction answers your questions.

Q: I need to have breast reconstruction due to breast cancer occurring twice since 1999. I’m scared because I can’t quit smoking. The surgeon will not perform the procedure unless I quit. Are there any surgeons who will perform reconstruction even though I am a smoker?

A: Surely there are some physicians who will do reconstruction while you’re smoking, but we are not among them. This policy is only because we have personal experience dealing with the many months of wound healing problems (and tears) that commonly follow this type of surgery performed on smokers.

Smoking  isn’t just bad, it’s absolutely terrible. If you want all of your wounds to fall apart, leaving you miserable for months, there may be no better way to accomplish it than to smoke during your reconstruction. The good news is, if you stop for one month before and 3 months after your surgery (with absolutely no cheating), you can often have successful surgery.


Q: I am, after total mastectomy performed 12 months ago, scheduled for reconstruction. My age is 59 and I do not have any emotional concerns about being without a breast. However, I would like to stop wearing epiteze, and would like to not worry that it will show in summer. My concern is whether the long-lasting and repeated reconstruction (several operations, including making the healthy breast smaller) represents too big of a risk to my health. After anesthesia last year, I experienced problems with forgetting and lack of focus for about 3 months. Also, what about the operation and healing stress to the overall body? I would hate to start a new health problem because of reconstruction. What is the general risk apart from risks mentioned here?

A: The risks you are worried about are probably not so much from the surgery, but more from the anesthesia. I would suggest you discuss your concerns with your primary care provider. We can advise you about risks such as bleeding, blood clots, infection, etc., but these do not usually result in the problems you describe.


Q: Am I putting my health at risk in order to research the best reconstruction method before surgery?

A: No, I think you are looking out for your health by doing careful research in advance. Please let us know if we can help you


Dr. Richard M. Kline

Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction


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