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Surgery for rehabilitation

The word rehabilitation in relation to cancer surgery means restoring or replacing tissues that are removed, altered or damaged during surgery. Lost tissue can often be rebuilt through reconstructive surgery or replaced with a prosthesis.

Reconstructive surgery
Reconstructive surgery is used to rebuild tissues that have been altered or damaged during surgery for cancer.

Specialists in reconstructive surgery are called plastic surgeons, although general surgeons may perform some reconstructive procedures as well.

There are several different types of reconstructive surgery that may either use tissue from your own body or a prosthesis. For example, the surgeon can move muscle and some skin from the abdomen to build a new breast. In another case implants or internal prostheses of different shapes and sizes may be inserted inside the chest muscle to build a new breast.

If you need reconstructive surgery your surgeon will discuss the different methods and recommend what is best for you depending on:

the part of the body that needs to be reconstructed
how much tissue has been removed
the quality of the remaining tissue
your general health
your preference
the way it looks and functions.
The timing of the surgery depends on:

whether you need further treatment such as radiotherapy, chemotherapy or more surgery
your general health
whether reconstruction is a necessity or a matter of choice.
Before you make any decisions you need to understand clearly why a particular method has been recommended to you. Some surgeons use diagrams or photographs to better explain what is involved. It may be possible for you to speak with others who have been through the same type of operation. Call 13 11 20 for information about our Cancer Connect Program.

Using a prosthesis
A prosthesis is an artificial body part made of non-reactive material like plastic, teflon or silicone which can be fitted internally or externally on to the body.

An external prosthesis is shaped like the body part and held in place by clothing or a bandage. For example, an artificial limb is bandaged on to the amputated arm or leg.

An internal prosthesis is surgically implanted inside the body.