breast reconstruction after breast cancer; DIEP flap; Skin Sparing Mastectomy

Breast Reconstruction Surgery - Autologous vs. Non-autologous: What's the difference?

Apr 06, 2024
There are many ways to get breast reconstruction after breast cancer, and there are two main differentiating factors in choosing what type of surgery to have:
  • whether they use the person's own body parts to recreate a breast (autologous)
  • whether they use a foreign object, such as an implant (non-autologous)

Why would someone choose one over the other?

One reason people who choose autologous surgeries have less chance of their body rejecting the new breast, since it is composed of the person's own tissues. While these surgeries are much more intense, they also don't create an immunity rejection like foreign objects can.

People may choose to use a foreign object because they do not want to do a more intensive surgery on abdomen, thigh or other body part to harvest tissue from. When they use a foreign object more of their natural body stays in tact.


What are examples of the different types of surgeries?

An example of an autologous surgery is a DIEP flap (deep inferior epigastric perforator), where the lower portion of a woman's abdomen is cut away as a flap - just the skin, fat and blood vessels, no muscle) - which is then reattached to the chest wall as a breast. 

A DIEP flap is an intensive surgery that not only requires healing of the new breast but also the abdomen and can take many months or even years to acclimate to.

An example of a non-autologous surgery is a skin sparing mastectomy.  This is where the skin of the breast is retained in it's natural pouch formation and an implant is placed inside to help recreate the fullness of a breast.  

It is a much quicker healing time than a DIEP flap and can be done if no radiation is going to take place.  

No matter which type of surgery is happening, there is assistance that can be given for healing after surgery.  

If you are a patient, please check out our Mastectomy Recovery Companion program for self-healing practices before and after breast cancer surgery.  If you are a massage therapy professional, please check out our 200 hour Mentorship and Training Academy for Breast, Chest and Oncology Massage.

Eryn Price RMT has been in the healing arts for the past 25 years.  She teaches internationally to create resources and promote education on women's and trans health and the value of massage therapy to support post-surgical recovery. 




DIEP Flap Image:

Skin Sparing Mastectomy image: Bedford Breast Center 


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