Reconstructing the nipple and areola is usually done while treating breast cancer with a mastectomy. The nipple is typically removed along with the rest of the breast. If you are planning for a breast reconstruction after your mastectomy, you can choose if you want to have the nipple and the areola (dark area around the nipple) to be reconstructed.
Nipple and areola reconstructions are the final stages of a breast reconstruction surgery. It is done to make the reconstructed breast look natural like the original breasts. Nipple and areola surgeries are mostly outpatient procedures, and the patient can head back home the same day. It’s usually done after the new breast heals, and is done about 3 to 4 months after a breast reconstruction surgery.
The tissue which is used to rebuild the nipple and areola is usually taken from the newly created breast, or from another part of your body. In some cases, doctors reconstruct the areola and nipple with donor skin which has the cells removed. In some cases, some women choose to get a tattooing done for the nipple area, to match the colour of the nipple. A skilled plastic surgeon or medically trained tattoo expert may be able to use pigment in shades that make the flat tattoo look 3 – dimensional.
Sometimes it becomes difficult to sustain the blood supply to the nipple during surgery. In such cases, a “free nipple graft” is the only way used to preserve the nipples. This procedure involves removing and replacing the nipple on the breast similar to a skin graft after the breast reduction or lift is done.