What Does a Reconstructed Breast Look Like?

How close can breast reconstruction get to creating a breast that looks real? Does it largely depend on how much tissue has been removed?

Doctor Answers 32

Breast Reconstruction

There are many many variables which will determine the final result of a reconstructed breast. The absolute best thing you can do is schedule an evaluation will a reputable well trained board certified plastic surgeon. Upon examination, your well-trained surgeon will be able to give you a really good idea of what you can expect long term as far as appearance. There is a wonderful picture book I found many years ago entitled "Reconstructing Aphrodite"  which I share with my patients. This book consists of beautiful professional photos of women who have undergone mastectomys and have opted for reconstruction. I hope you will find this book to be as helpful as my patients have. Best wishes!

Columbus Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 23 reviews

Have a question? Ask a doctor

What do Reconstructed Breasts Look Like?

This is a simple question that has anything but a simple answer. Because there are so many variables involved, there is no single answer. Some of the variables that affect the appearance of reconstructed breasts include:

  • the timing of reconstruction (immediate-at the time of mastectomy or delayed-done at a second procedure sometime after mastectomy)
  • whether or not radiation therapy has been part of a women's treatment
  • the type of mastectomy performed (e.g., traditional incision, skin-sparing mastectomy or nipple spaing mastectomy
  • method of reconstruction (implants or natural-tissue reconstruction)
  • patient age
  • patient's skin quality and thickness.

The cliché, a picture is worth a thousand words, applies here. I suggest that you consult with board-certified plastic surgeons who have significant experience with breast reconstruction. Most experienced surgeons will have have a significant number of pre and postoperative photographs that you can review to get a better sense of what the results of reconstruction actually look like.

I hope this is helpful.

Results from Mastectomy Reconstruction

The answer to your question will depending on multiple factors which include but are not limited to: the type of mastectomy done (skin sparing mastectomy or nipple sparing?); your cancer treatment plan (will you require radiation therapy); your overall health status and baseline breast anatomy (what do you breasts look like currently); and the type of your reconstruction (implants vs. using your own tissue).

Board certified plastic surgeons achieve some fantastic results for post mastectomy reconstruction with either implant based reconstruction or autologous (using your own tissue) reconstruction.   There are pro's and con's to each reconstructive modality.  

If you require radiation therapy, this will complicate and add steps to your reconstruction.  Remember, reconstruction is a process and may require multiple steps.  But at the end of your journey, the odds are overwhelmingly in your favor that you will be pleased with your results.  the literature shows that > 90 percent of women who had mastectomy reconstruction would recommend it to others facing the diagnosis of cancer.

I encourage you to visit our website listed below to view before/after photos of different results using different techniques for reconstruction

Breast reconstruction

A reconstructed breast can do a reasonable but not perfect job of matching the opposite breast especially if the reconstruction is done with the patient's own tissues rather than an implant. These are complex operations and other variables in the results are related to your own body, the opposite breast, the type of mastectomy done, the use of radiation treatments etc.

This is a complex subject best discussed with a plastic surgeon who does a lot of reconstruction who can examine and advise you.

High variability in breast reconstruction

The results of breast reconstruction run the gamut from very unnatural with hard, visible implants, to very soft and natural using combinations of autogenous flaps and silicone gel implants. Each situation must be taken individually and the results are highly dependent upon individual healing and scarring and whether on not the chest wall has been irradiated. Inaddition, naturalness in feel and look to the doctor or observer may not be the same naturalness and feel to the patient. Much of the final result is also determine by how the mastectomy is performed.

Robin T.W. Yuan, MD
Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 8 reviews

Breast reconstruction in Los Angeles

Our office performs all different types of breast reconstruction and we have found that we can restore a beautiful breast to women who have had mastectomies or breast surgery. We specialize in breast scars.


Dr. Karamanoukian

Raffy Karamanoukian, MD, FACS
Los Angeles Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 57 reviews

Real breast reconstruction

Answering this question as specifically as I can, a breast reconstruction can come so close to looking real that you wouldn't even be able to tell the difference.  Depending on the technique used your tissues and some other variables a breast reconstruction can look and feel exactly like a natural breast.  Isn't that amazing? So many exciting things have happened in breast reconstruction that we have reached this possibility in some cases! I would not set your hopes on that but it is the correct answer to the question and it's great news!
 There are many variables that can make a result stray from that perfect outcome but at least the results bar begins at a high pointier that.

Ricardo A. Meade, MD
Dallas Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 75 reviews

Cosmetic result of breast reconstruction

The result of your reconstruction has many influences.  The mastectomy surgery result, whether reconstruction is done immediately (time of mastectomy) or delayed, the role of radiation, your body habitus, and the appearance of the opposite breast amongst other things.  Also very influential is the type of reconstruction that is performed.  In most cases a reconstruction with your own abdominal tissue will provide a more natural look and feel to the breast.  However, implant based reconstructions can also look quite nice.  There are pros and cons to all surgery types that go beyond the final appearance.  Ideally your surgeon would perform all types of reconstruction and be able to guide you based on your individual situation.  

Rodger Shortt, FRCSC
Toronto Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 17 reviews

It is supposed to look like the breast that you had removed but lifted!

I tell all of my patients that I can replace the volume usually without a problem.   Also the breast reconstruction cannot sag like a normal breast.  It has to sit higher so you always get a breast lift with a reconstruction.Please find an experienced Board Certified Plastic Surgeon and member of the Aesthetic Society using the Smart Beauty Guide. These Plastic Surgeons can guide you on all aspects of facial surgery, breast augmentation and body procedures including tummy tucks or mommy makeovers!

Breast Reconstruction Results

Results from a Breast Reconstruction are influenced by the following:

1.  Type of mastectomy performed (traditional vs. skin sparing vs. nipple sparing) determines the skin envelope of the breast.

2.  Size/Shape of breast prior to surgery.   Breasts that have a lot of loose skin are more difficult to reconstruct than those with less skin.

3.  Previous Breast Surgery:  patients that have had previous breast reduction or breast lift, may have limited options in mastectomy skin design and nipple preservation.

4.  Need for Radiation:  After radiation, patients will require removal of damaged skin and replacement with healthy non radiated tissue (patch appearance)

5.  Choice of Tissue Reconstruction vs. Implant Reconstruction:   Depending on your anatomy and potential donor sites, your plastic surgeon will share which of these options  may be able to achieve a more natural result in your setting.


Bottomline,  there are several options and factors that can influence a final breast reconstruction results.   In some cases, we can achieve very natural results and even improve on the existing breast shape and size.    In others, we are limited in options based on the breast anatomy, presence of radiation, or mastectomy performed and must realistically discuss what to expect prior to surgery.

I think the most important part of breast reconstruction is establishing expectations prior to the procedure.   With the many doctor visits and different options on the table, it is often difficult to absorb what the limitations of reconstruction can be.    However, I find a good understanding of this prior to surgery, leads to a happy and well informed patient postoperatively.    I wish you a safe recovery and wonderful result.


Dr. Gill

Paul S. Gill, MD
Houston Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 51 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.