Types of procedure
It is sometimes possible to create a new nipple at the same time as breast reconstruction however it is more commonly created during further surgery at a later date, once the reconstruction has healed and settled into its final shape and position.
Some women choose not to have a nipple reconstruction as they may be satisfied with the final result of their reconstruction, or not want to go through another operation. Prosthetic stick on nipples can be an alternative option, and look incredibly realistic, as they can be custom made to match the colour and shape of the other nipple (if applicable).
If the nipple has to be removed during a mastectomy or lumpectomy, and it is not possible to create a nipple on the breast during the immediate reconstruction, it is possible to have a nipple made later.
This can usually be done as day surgery under local anaesthetic.
Six to eight weeks later the nipple and areola are tattooed to give the colour to the nipple/areola complex.
The nipple can also be reconstructed from grafted tissue, taken from other suitable areas of your body. Two areas that may be used are the nipple and areola from the remaining natural breast (nipple/areola share) and the top of the inner thigh, where the skin is darker in colour.
It is important to be realistic about what to expect from a reconstructed nipple – it will not behave in the same way or have the same sensation as a natural nipple. It may flatten over time.
There for you
One of our most proud achievements was to fund a clinical psychologist at the Norfolk & Norwich University Hospital who specialised in supporting breast cancer patients.
This service was not initially going to supported by the NHS, but after Keeping Abreast funded it for 18 months the Trust saw the value of it and decided to take on the funding.