skip to Cookie NoticeSkip to contents

Header Skipped.

Breast Implants After a Mastectomy

Breast implants (silicone or saline) are a good option to rebuild a breast's shape after a mastectomy. While the main focus is to add volume and size to the reconstructed breast, other procedures such as changing the size/shape of the new breast, and enhancing the opposite breast to match size are common as well. For example, you may elect to have a breast lift, breast reduction or breast augmentation on the other breast to achieve breast symmetry.

Procedure Options


  • A tissue expander will be inserted into the breast area
  • Tissue will be expanded through multiple visits to the surgeon’s office for tissue-stretching
  • A same-day surgery will then exchange the tissue expander for a permanent implant


  • If you have the right anatomy and are considered an appropriate candidate, an implant will be inserted immediately without the tissue expansion process

It is important to note:

  • Your reconstructed breast will likely not have the same sensations as the breast it replaces
  • You will always have visible incision lines present on the breast, whether from reconstruction or mastectomy

Before and After - Breast Implants after Mastectomy

Are Breast Implants a Good Option for You?

Breast implants are a good option for you if:

  • 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

Although most women qualify as breast reconstruction patients, there are several factors that may disqualify you. Our highly trained and caring plastic surgeons will discuss this with you at the time of your consultation.

Further Interventions: Breast Implant Exchange/Removal

For personal or medical reasons, you may wish to have your breast implants exchanged for a different type or size, or removed permanently. Older implants (usually after 10-15 years) are often replaced with more natural feeling implants. Breast implant exchange may also be done to remove and replace older implants which have displaced, become encapsulated, ruptured, or leaked. A breast lift sometimes follows.

Is an Implant Exchange or Removal a Good Option for You?

A breast implant exchange or removal may be a good option for you if you experience:

  • Poor healing and scarring
  • Dissatisfaction with implant size, shape, type or placement
  • Capsular contracture (hardened scar tissue)
  • Implant rupture
  • Implant leakage
  • Implant displacement

Insurance Coverage

The Women's Health and Cancer Rights Act (WHCRA) includes protections for individuals who elect breast reconstruction in connection with a mastectomy. WHCRA provides that group health plans and health insurance issuers that provide coverage for medical and surgical benefits with respect to mastectomies must also cover certain post-mastectomy benefits, including reconstructive surgery and the treatment of complications (such as lymphedema).

More Information?

If you have questions, please contact us. We are always willing to help you determine if this is right for you.

Breast Implant Words To Know

  • Areola: Pigmented skin surrounding the nipple.
  • Augmentation mammaplasty: Breast enlargement or breast enhancement by surgery.
  • Breast Augmentation: Also known as augmentation mammaplasty; breast enlargement or breast enhancement by surgery.
  • Breast Implants: Medical devices placed in your body to enhance an existing breast size or to reconstruct your breast. Breast implants fall into two categories: saline breast implants and silicone breast implants.
  • Capsular contracture: A complication of breast implant surgery which occurs when scar tissue that normally forms around the implant tightens and squeezes the implant and becomes firm.
  • General anesthesia: Drugs and/or gases used during an operation to relieve pain and alter consciousness.
  • Inframammary incision: An incision made in the fold under the breast.
  • Intravenous sedation: Sedatives administered by injection into a vein to help you relax.
  • Local anesthesia: A drug injected directly to the site of an incision during an operation to relieve pain.
  • Mammogram: An x-ray image of the breast.
  • Mastectomy: The removal of breast tissue, typically to rid the body of cancer.
  • MRI: Magnetic Resonance Imaging; a painless test to view tissue similar to an x-ray.
  • Periareolar incision: An incision made at the edge of the areola.
  • Saline implants: Breast implants filled with salt water.
  • Silicone implants: Breast implants filled with an elastic gel.
  • Submammary or subglandular placement: Breast implants placed directly behind the breast tissue, over the pectoral muscle.
  • Submuscular or subpectoral placement: Breast implants placed under the pectoral muscle, which is located between the breast tissue and chest wall.
  • Sutures: Stitches used by surgeons to hold skin and tissue together.
  • Transaxillary incision: An incision made in the underarm area.
  • Ultrasound: A diagnostic procedure that projects high frequency sound waves into the body and records the echoes as pictures.

Learn more about Brigham and Women's Hospital

For over a century, a leader in patient care, medical education and research, with expertise in virtually every specialty of medicine and surgery.

About BWH