Restoring Sensation to the Breast after Mastectomy

Dr. Constance M Chen

We believe that it is important to make every effort and provide every possible opportunity to restore full sensation to the breast.

May 2017 – More than 100,000 women have mastectomies in the United States every year. And, with surgical advances that promise a soft, warm breast that will look and feel like her original breast, more and more women now opt for breast reconstruction, either at the time of the mastectomy or later. But many of these women who undergo reconstruction discover that the natural “look and feel” of her restored breast refers to how the breast will look and feel to someone else. Often the breast does not feel at all natural to the woman herself and her reconstructed breast may lack all feeling and be completely numb to touch and sexual arousal. “Our society has always put a premium on how a woman looks,” says Dr. Constance M Chen, plastic surgeon and breast reconstruction specialist. “And while our ability to reconstruct a woman’s breast has come a long way, the emphasis has been on restoring her appearance. Restoring sensation wasn’t a priority and women haven’t always been made aware of what to expect. The good news is that we are now pioneering techniques that show great promise in reconnecting nerves and restoring sensation.”    

During a mastectomy, the nerves that provide feeling to the breast and nipple are severed, causing loss of sensation in the remaining skin whether the woman undergoes reconstruction or not. Over time, some women experience a return of feeling but it is typically minimal. When the reconstruction choice is implants, there is no opportunity to restore sensation because the implant forms a physical barrier that prevents nerves from…

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