Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses medication to slow or stop the growth of cancer cells. Chemotherapy drugs either kill cancer cells or stop them from dividing. Since some normal cells involved in the healing or surgical wounds are also affected by chemotherapy, your breast management team will also take into account whether or not chemotherapy will be part of your treatment when planning your reconstruction.
In general, the need for a woman to receive chemotherapy does not preclude immediate breast reconstruction. If neo-adjuvant (before surgery) chemotherapy is administered, mastectomy, with or without reconstruction will generally follow a woman’s last dose by four to six weeks. During the weeks between chemotherapy and surgery, your immune system will have time to recuperate so that it will be prepared to help you heal after surgery. When adjuvant (after surgery) chemotherapy is part of a woman’s treatment, it usually begins about six weeks after mastectomy or mastectomy with reconstruction in order to give the body time to heal. In rare cases, wound healing problems following reconstruction could delay the initiation of chemotherapy. Nevertheless, well controlled studies have shown that immediate breast reconstruction is considered safe for the overwhelming majority of women even when chemotherapy is planned after mastectomy. This is because breast reconstruction does not generally delay the start of chemotherapy.