Did you know that breast reconstruction plastic surgery due to cancer should be covered by insurance? In 1998 new federal law was signed as part of the Women's Health and Cancer Rights Act of 1998 which requires that most insurance plans that cover mastectomies, also cover breast reconstruction.
Under the WHCRA, mastectomy benefits must cover reconstruction of a removed breast, surgery and reconstruction of the other breast to make them look symmetrical, any external prostheses that are needed before or during reconstruction and any physical complications such as lymphedema (swelling of the area where lymph nodes were removed).
What is not largely divulged is that some insurance companies will keep only a small roster of "in-network" plastic surgeons who specialize in reconstruction of the breast. By offering a small selection of these professionals, they guarantee to be in accordance with the law, but give no real alternatives to patients when selecting a doctor of their choice.
Reconstruction is not the same process as a breast augmentation. Many total mastectomies remove not only the nipple, but all the tissue, fat and glands found in the breast, forming an almost concave result and leaving deep scars. Typical reconstruction of the breast is made in several stages, which can involve multiple surgeries spaced out by recovery time.
Since most of the breast is removed during a total mastectomy, surgeons must opt for forming the shape of the new breasts with silicon or muscle and fat removed from a different area of the body. Further surgeries are required to form the nipple, correct symmetry, remove excessive scar tissue, etc.
In 2007, stem cell technology was used to develop a more natural breast growth procedure, and therefore healthier (although still expensive) alternative to silicon implants. The process involves removing fat taken by liposuction from other parts of the body, separating the stem cells and then injecting them back into the patient. The breasts then "grow back" after a period of 6 months.