Breast reconstruction and breast prosthesis

Breast reconstruction

After a mastectomy, it may be possible for you to have a breast reconstruction. Some people choose not to have further surgery. There are three main types of reconstruction:

• a breast implant

• a flap reconstruction using your own tissue

• a combination of tissue and an implant.


Your cancer treatment team may refer you to a plastic (or reconstructive) surgeon who will discuss the options for breast

reconstruction with you. A breast reconstruction may be done at the same time as your mastectomy, or at a later date.

  • If you are likely to need radiation treatment after your mastectomy, you will be offered reconstruction surgery at a later date.
  •  if you choose not to have a reconstruction at the same time as your mastectomy, it can be done at a later date.
  • Breast reconstruction using implants is not recommended for people who are smokers.
  • Breast reconstruction using flaps of skin and tissue from other areas of your body, is not usually recommended for people who have diabetes, are smokers, or are overweight.

You may like to talk to your GP or treatment team about a Green Prescription or support to quit smoking.

Further information on breast reconstruction is available from your local Cancer Society or phone the cancer

information nurses on the Cancer Information Helpline 0800 CANCER (226 237).


You may want to read the booklet: Breast Prostheses and Reconstruction written by Cancer Council Australia. 


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Breast prosthesis

If you do not have breast reconstruction you can get a soft, light-weight breast form to wear inside your bra. You can wear this straight after surgery until your wound heals and you can be fitted for a breast prosthesis.

A breast prosthesis replaces the shape of all or part of your breast that has been removed by surgery. Most breast prostheses are made of a soft silicone gel covered by a thin film and are designed to fit inside your bra. Many people choose to wear a breast prosthesis, although some prefer not to. When your wound is fully healed and any swelling has gone down (usually within six to eight weeks after surgery), you may choose to be fitted for a permanent prosthesis.
Prosthesis fitting services are available across New Zealand – contact your cancer treatment team or local Cancer Society for details of your local service. 
Breast prosthesis subsidy

The Ministry of Health provides an entitlement known as the Breast Prosthesis subsidy. This entitles you to a grant every four years. At the end of the four year period, any unspent money will be cancelled and another four year entitlement will be credited to you.

To claim the entitlement ask your surgeon or breast care nurse for a medical certificate, which you then take to a breast prosthesis supplier who will process the claim for you.

The payment can be used to purchase:

• a breast prosthesis, including swim form, foam filler, shell prosthesis and lumpectomy shells

• special bras to hold the prosthesis

• surgical bras

• normal bras (including modification of a bra or alternative undergarment to hold a breast prosthesis)

• modified swimwear to hold a swim form

• prosthetic nipples.

For more information go to the Ministry of Health website subsidy page or phone the Ministry of Health Contact Centre on0800 458 448.