Breast reconstruction numbers double as surgery times fall

The number of Irish women opting for breast reconstruction surgery after a mastectomy has doubled in the past year, according to a leading plastic surgeon. 

This has been attributed to medical advances which have seen the time it takes to reconstruct a breast drop from between four and five months down to just 45 minutes in some cases.

Speaking yesterday at the announcement of this year’s Breast Reconstruction Awareness day, Catriona Lawlor, a Dublin-based plastic surgeon specialising in breast reconstruction, said: “Breast reconstruction is becoming an easier option for women as surgery methods improve.

“Just a few years ago, we would have reconstructed a breast over four or five months, but more recently, with advances in surgery, we are now using pig skin, a natural product, as an implant holder to allow us to accelerate the process in implant-based reconstruction to a single operation.

“These developing techniques mean, in many cases, we can get surgery time down to just 45 minutes, giving a woman back normal-looking breasts post-mastectomy that, in turn, gives her a massive boost, having been through the shock of finding out she has breast cancer.

“As well, we are developing the use of a process called lipofilling, where we are able to take fat from the hips, buttocks, or thighs of a patient where it is usually not wanted and we use this to smooth out irregularities and give a more natural cleavage and look to the reconstruction.

This technique is increasingly being used to recreate the entire breast and may decrease the use of implants for reconstruction over time.

“Because it’s getting simpler and quicker to have this operation, more and more women are opting to have it. I estimate that the number of women in Ireland who have had breast reconstructive surgery has doubled in the last year.”

She said new patient populations, including those who have more advanced disease, are being offered the opportunity to have reconstruction because of the more rapid recovery times.

A BRA day information evening takes place at St Vincent’s Hospital on Wednesday. Those attending will be able to hear from and talk to those who have undergone the surgery as well as being shown all the implant options.

  • lFor more, phone 0877958723 or email

Star survivors

Celebrities who have had mastectomies:

  • Angelina Jolie — After losing her mother to ovarian cancer and then learning that she had the gene mutation, the actress opted to have a preventive double mastectomy, followed by reconstructive surgery, at age 37.
  • Christina Applegate — After being diagnosed with breast cancer aged of 36, she opted for a double mastectomy. She told Oprah Winfrey: “I don’t want to have to deal with this again.”
  • Michelle Heaton — She opted for a double mastectomy after learning a faulty gene meant she had an 80% chance of developing breast cancer.
  • Sharon Osbourne — After having colon cancer, she learned she carried a gene for breast cancer in 2012 and immediately had a double mastectomy.
  • Olivia Newton-John — The singer and actress battled breast cancer in 1992, and opted to have one breast removed, followed by reconstructive surgery.

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