If you or a loved one has just entered the world of breast cancer, mastectomy and breast reconstruction, I hope this page will help you understand a few key terms. At the bottom of the page you will find links to some websites with more detailed information.


A unilateral (sometimes referred to as single) mastectomy removes the tissue of a single breast.

A bilateral (sometimes referred to as double) mastectomy removes the tissue of both breasts.

A prophylactic mastectomy is when a woman chooses to undergo the surgery prior to diagnosis. Mastectomies are often performed after a breast cancer diagnosis, but are also a treatment option for women who are cancer-free, but have tested positive for the genetic mutation for the disease on their BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene. The genetic mutation greatly increases the risk of a future breast cancer diagnosis. A woman who undergoes a prophylactic mastectomy is called a previvor.


Breast reconstruction is done to restore breasts after a mastectomy.  Though in some cases the woman’s nipple is spared during mastectomy, the goal of the surgery is to remove all the breast tissue. Depending on how advanced the cancer, sometimes some or all of the chest muscle is removed as well. The surgeon is tasked with creating something out of nothing, and the nature of the surgery generally necessitates long incisions that leave prominent scars. Reconstruction comes from a place of sadness and loss. It’s something women undergo to regain a sense of normalcy after one of the key feminine parts of their body is removed.

Breast augmentation (boob job), on the other hand, utilizes implants or fat to enhance the size and shape of already existing breasts. The woman’s natural breast tissue remains intact, and an implant is added to the breast tissue for aesthetic reasons. This procedure is completed using a small incision in an inconspicuous area like the armpit or the underside of the areola.  It’s something women do to improve their look. I consider this a “happy procedure.”


In flap reconstruction, tissue is taken from another part of the woman’s body and reassigned to the breast. Skin, muscle and fat tissue can all be used. There are several places on the body that can be used as the donor sites for flap reconstruction. The two most common sites are the abdomen and the upper back. (There are a variety of flap procedures that are commonly performed.)(American Cancer Society)

In implant reconstruction, the breast is rebuilt using a silicone or saline implant instead of tissue from a different part of the woman’s body. This is sometimes immediately follows mastectomy – immediate reconstruction. It’s sometimes done in phases – immediate/delayed reconstruction.(This is what I did.) And it is sometimes done months or even years after mastectomy – delayed reconstruction.


Saline implants are filled with saline, a substance similar to salt water. The most appealing part of saline implants is that if they puncture or break, the body naturally absorbs the saline. A common complaint about saline implants, however, is that they don’t feel natural. They tend to be harder and less malleable than silicone implants. Though saline implants have been in use the longest, silicone implants are a more popular choice.

Silicone implants are the most common type today.  A regular silicone implant is filled with silicone gel. If the implant breaks or leaks, the gel has the possibility of seeping out into the pocket that was created for the implant. Fears about the silicone leaking into the body in the event of a puncture led the FDA to research the safety of these implants in the 1990s. (They were deemed safe and have been in use ever since the completion of that study.)

Gummy bear implants ulitize a semi-solid silicone gel that holds its form even if the implant breaks. Because of the thicker gel, these implants feel less like natural breast tissue than regular silicone, but they don’t risk leaking if the implant is punctured.


20 thoughts on “Basic Terms Defined

  1. Hello Kim,
    I just read your guest blog post on Ironic Mom and laughed out loud while reading. I too am a mom of three boys and a very handsome hubby who each give me plenty of material for blog posts. Most importantly, I too am a daughter of the King of Kings. I look forward to reading your Christian Devotions. Thanks for using your gifts and glorifying our Father!

    1. Thank you! It’s so nice to “‘meet” mom’s of boys who have a similar mindset to me. Love them well and let them be boys! They are so completely different from me, and I am so thankful to have this front row seat in their lives. And being in the front row includes a lot of talk about body noises and body parts 😉

  2. I knew a Kim Harms who lived in Indy at one time and worked for tourism. Are you the one? I saw your post on TWV and found you here. You’re talented at a young age! I was just starting at your age. Go for it! I didn’t know TCW was still around– online only? http://www.KayleenR.com

    1. It’s not me. I was born and raised in Iowa. It’s -30 with the wind chill here today though, so I wouldn’t mind taking off for a little trip to Indy 🙂
      Thanks so much for the compliment. TCW is primarily online. If I remember right, they still produce two print copies per year.
      I see that you are a WWII writer. I love historical fiction from that time period, and I just read Louie Zamperini’s story in Unbroken and couldn’t put the thing down. It’s fascinating to me.

  3. If you like WWII hist fic, you need to join a FB group that specializes in that. Sarah Sundin is a big Christian author of those novels as is Cara Putnam. I think they’re in charge of the group that is named WWII Fiction Authors & Readers. I love interviewing the ppl who fought for our country then. My blog: http://www.KayleenR.com. i barely have time to work on it but will try to be updating it more often.

  4. Hi Kim, Thank you for sharing your.devotion in the Upper Room. You made the little things so big. Love your eye opening thoughts. Blessings for your.ministry as a writer.

  5. Hi Kim! I discovered you from TCW and loved your articles. I have really enjoyed reading your posts here and feel blessed by your writing, insight, and experiences! Is there any way I could connect with you via email? May the Lord continue to use your gifts to encourage others! Blessings

  6. Hi Kim, thanks so much for sharing your article on public schooling as a Christian. I’m a Christian mum in Australia and we are getting ready to send our eldest Son Lewis to big school next year. We have prayed n prayed about the decision and felt Gid confirmed the public school up the road…but I’m starting to doubt and am stressing about the bad influences he may encounter..your article helped. I need to trust where Hes led so far and if He wants something different He will tell us. So thanks its been a blessing. Any other tips to help us with the transition would be great and prayer too. Thanks, Melissa

    1. Thanks for sharing that with me Melissa. We now have two teenagers and a 9-year-old in public school. I know no two schools are the same, but we have (for the most part) had a really good public school experience. I don’t know how the school system works in Australia, but during the early school years, I was able to volunteer in my boys’ classes twice per month. It gave me an inside look at the classroom and allowed me to get to know their teachers. I pray that your public school experience is a good one.

  7. Kim, can I order 2 pillows for support , I’m going to have mastectomy probably ist week of april. If not. That’s okay, thank you for your blog.

  8. This is many years after the event, but I just had to say, THANK YOU for sharing this encouraging post. You have a lovely family, and they’ve obviously supported you through the horrible journey of cancer. They are no doubt pretty much grown up now. My kids that saw me through my cancer are now all parents themselves. The eldest has a daughter of 24. Yikes! I’ve just reread your testimony on my site and I love it. I think it’s time for a sequel. Are you up to it? Kim Harms’ Testimony in 2016.

    1. Thank Shirl. I’d be happy to write a “sequel” for Rise and Soar. Just let me know if you have something specific in mind or just want me to choose a direction and go with it. 🙂

  9. Definitely believe that which you stated. Your favorite reason appeared to be on the net the simplest thing to be aware of. I say to you, I definitely get irked while people think about worries that they plainly do not know about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top and also defined out the whole thing without having side effect , people can take a signal. Will probably be back to get more. Thanks

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