Summary: When it comes to certain plastic surgery decisions, it can be difficult to place ourselves in another’s shoes. That’s what we feel is happening with the recent coverage of Angelina Jolie being “too skinny” for a plastic surgery procedure. Everyone’s body is different and, especially when making breast reconstruction decisions, it’s important to keep in mind the individual aspects of these procedures.

Too Skinny for Plastic Surgery?

According to some recent reports, hyped to their usual levels by the gossip sites, Angelina Jolie has recently been denied a desired plastic surgery procedure because she’s “too skinny.” Now, this isn’t a new development for Jolie, though the headlines would have you believe she walked out of the surgeon’s office yesterday. Rather, it has to do with her decision-making process when it came to her reconstruction after her mastectomy. As many may remember, Jolie underwent a voluntary, preventative mastectomy after weighing certain genetic information, family history, and other factors—the hope, of course, is that she successfully prevented breast cancer.

Many women who either undergo voluntary mastectomy or who do so as part of a cancer treatment regimen spend a lot of time thinking about reconstructive surgery—and when it comes to that surgery they have many decisions to make, just like Angelina Jolie did. According to reports, Jolie wanted to rely on autologous breast reconstruction; that is, she wanted to use reconstruction techniques that relied on tissue from donor sites on her body. This is, by far, the most common form of breast reconstruction because of the natural look of the final results. However, autologous techniques do require that donor tissue be available, and surgeons made the decision that Jolie didn’t have enough of it to safely do that procedure.

Making Breast Reconstruction Decisions

In cases like this, many women turn to artificial breast implants, not terribly different from the implants used in breast augmentation procedures. Now, most of the media outlets reporting this story are emphasizing the “Jolie was too skinny” aspect, likely in an attempt to drive interest and sensationalize the story. Unfortunately, this kind of misses the point. When any woman goes under the knife for breast reconstruction procedures, there are a series of decisions to be made, and some of those decisions will be determined by the size and shape of your body.

According to the website of the Minneapolis breast surgery experts at Minneapolis Plastic Surgery, the first of those decisions will be the nature of the reconstruction—the same question that Jolie grappled with: what material to use. There are many different reconstruction techniques, many of which draw from donor tissue from various areas of the body. There are breast reconstruction options which use donor material from the belly, from the legs, even from the shoulders. However, in order to be successful, there has to be an adequate amount of tissue to form the new breast without causing any kind of tissue deficit. This is an incredibly difficult decision to make, and there are many long-term issues to consider.

Artificial vs. Autologous Implants

In most cases, if you choose artificial breast implants, the initial reconstructive surgery will be easier and you’ll recover more quickly. This is because any type of autologous breast implant by its nature requires two procedures—one to collect the donor material and one to implant (often performed simultaneously, but requiring twice as much recovery). Using saline or silicone implants don’t require the initial part of the procedure, to collect donor tissue, and so recovery is usually quite a bit quicker. However, silicone and saline implants have only a limited shelf life. It’s true that shelf life is something like fifteen years, but that’s still a consideration.

In fact, that’s why Jolie wanted to avoid artificial implants: eventually they will have to be removed or replaced. Many patients wish to avoid that extra procedure further down the line. In contrast, autologous implants do not have to be removed due to the passing of time. It’s easy to see why that can be a tough decision and it doesn’t help that sometimes, frankly, our bodies just decide for us. That’s the way things go.

Remember the Individuality of Your Body

So we’re not going to jump on the Angelina Jolie-bashing band wagon and start talking about how she’s too skinny and so on and so forth, Recovering from a mastectomy is a very personal journey, and no two bodies are exactly alike. Every recovery is going to be different, and so every reconstruction is going to be different. As mastectomy patients know, you have to take things at your own pace and listen to your body, within the confines of what your body will allow and support. It’s hard to blame Angelina Jolie for doing just that. And in that regard, she certainly has our support.

It’s easy to forget, just how many breast reconstruction decisions there are to make during that process. All we’ve talked about so far is the material of the breast implant—and, believe us, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Your plastic or reconstructive surgeon will help you make all those decisions.

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