Choosing to remain flat
What you do after surgery to remove breast cancer is a very personal choice. You may choose to "remain flat," which can also be called "staying flat," "going flat" or "living flat." This means that you choose not to have breast reconstruction or wear a breast prosthesis after surgery for breast cancer.
Having breast reconstruction or wearing a breast prosthesis is not medically necessary. Many people choose to remain flat because they are comfortable and confident with their body as it is after a mastectomy or breast-conserving surgery.
There is not one "right" choice to make after surgery to treat breast cancer. If you're unsure of whether you'd like to remain flat, it may help to talk to your healthcare team, friends, family and people who have been through the same experience. You may want to consider the following to help you make your decision:
- Reconstruction means more surgery. If you have other health issues (like diabetes or heart disease), further surgery may come with additional risks and may not be the right decision for you.
- You may not want to deal with the possible complications of breast reconstruction.
- You may not want to use breast implants or take tissue from another part of your body to reconstruct a breast.
- Many people are happy with their breast reconstruction, but a reconstructed breast doesn’t feel completely natural. It may also look slightly different than a natural breast. With this in mind, having surgery may not offer the benefits you are looking for.
- You may not like the feeling of wearing an artificial breast form. There may also be additional costs for mastectomy bras and new prostheses over time that are not covered by government or private insurance plans.
Kathryn Isaac, MD, FRCSC, MPH
Melinda Musgrave , MD, FRCPC, PhD
breastcancer.org. Going Flat: Choosing No Reconstruction. 2016: https://www.breastcancer.org/treatment/surgery/reconstruction/no-reconstruction.
American Cancer Society. Breast Reconstruction Surgery. 2022: https://www.cancer.org/.
Cancer Research UK. False Breast Shape (Prosthesis) After Breast Cancer Surgery. 2020: https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/.
Mayo Clinic. Breast Reconstruction with Implants. 2020: https://www.mayoclinic.org.