Although the study wasn't large--just 92 women who had reconstruction between 2006 and 2010--it's not the first time that women have expressed greater satisfaction when they have natural tissue reconstruction. This type of surgery is certainly more intensive, invasive and requires a longer recovery than reconstruction with implants, but it also produces breasts that look and feel more natural and don't have the inherent problems that come with breast implants (including eventual replacement).
In this study, 47 women had natural tissue reconstruction; most used their own abdominal tissue to recreate their breasts. The remaining 45 women had breast implants.
Here are some key results (based on a 100-point scale) and differences between the two categories of women:
Natural tissue reconstruction:
- Average age: 51
- Average overall satisfaction with breast reconstruction: 82
- Average satisfaction with reconstructed breasts: 75
- Reconstruction delayed an average of 21 months after mastectomy
- More likely to have radiation therapy
- Higher average body weight
Breast implant reconstruction:
- Average age: 44
- Average overall satisfaction with breast reconstruction: 74.5
- Average satisfaction with reconstructed breasts: 65.5
- Reconstruction performed immediately (with mastectomy)
- Women were more likely to have bilateral reconstruction. (Many chose preventive double mastectomy to lower their high risk of breast cancer due to a BRCA gene mutation.)
Study authors emphasized that both methods of breast reconstruction provided good outcomes, with similar scores for quality of life, and that complication rates were similar between groups, although the natural tissue reconstruction group had a higher rate of secondary corrective surgeries.