If you have one breast removed as part of your breast cancer treatment and you choose to have a breast reconstruction, your surgeon will try to make your reconstructed breast symmetrical with your other breast.
It can sometimes be difficult to match the two breasts. The tissue or material used for the breast reconstruction is likely to have a different look and feel to the other breast. The difference is usually greatest when an implant is used. Implants are usually firmer and sit higher on the chest than a natural breast.
"When I was told that I would have to have a mastectomy I decided to have the bilateral done because I didn't want it coming back in the other one...I wasn't going through all that again."
Some women who have a mastectomy consider also having the non-cancerous breast removed because of concerns about breast cancer developing in the other breast in the future or to achieve a more symmetrical appearance after surgery. This is called contralateral prophylactic mastectomy.
"If I hadn't been conquered with the cancer thing, trying to get over that, and was thinking clearly I probably would have had them both done at the same time. But I was just trying to deal with cancer at the time."
It is important to understand that removing the other breast will not reduce the risk of breast cancer coming back in the future and will not improve overall survival. However, it will reduce the risk of developing a new breast cancer in the non-cancerous breast.
"I was a bit like you thinking this just isn't good enough, what happens if it comes back on the other side and I had all these doubts coming into my head. And I said, "is this my best option" and he (breast surgeon) said "no, your best option is mastectomy". I just said "well I'll have mastectomy then, in fact I'll have a double mastectomy", and he said "right ok, if that's your decision", and that was it."
If you do have a bilateral mastectomy, you can have a breast reconstruction of both breasts in one operation. This means that it is easier to match the look and feel of the reconstructed breasts.