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Many women elect to have reconstructive breast surgery after having a mastectomy to treat breast cancer. Although there’s no medical reason for having reconstructive surgery, it can offer many emotional and mental benefits to women who have had to have one or both breasts removed because of cancer. However, many woman want to know that having reconstructive surgery will not affect their chances of surviving breast cancer down the road.

A new study shows that having breast implants after a mastectomy to treat early breast cancer will not have negative effects in breast cancer survivors over the long term. In fact, the study suggests that women who get breast implants after a mastectomy may have slightly higher survival rates than women who do not.

The December 23rd issue of Breast Cancer Research published the results of study that looked at the long-term survival rates of more than 4,000 women under the age of 65 who had been diagnosed with early breast cancer. All of the women in the study underwent a mastectomy. Following the mastectomy, 21% of the women had reconstructive breast surgery that included implants.

Researchers followed the women’s progress for 12 years. During that time, 12.4% of the women who had breast implants after a mastectomy died of breast cancer, compared to 19.7% of women without an implant who died during the same period.

While researchers feel confident that the study supports the idea that reconstructive breast surgery is safe in the long-term, they are not ready to declare that it is better than not having breast implants after a mastectomy. Researcher Gem Lee said that, “Further research is needed to explain this survival differential in women with breast implants and those without, by examining potentially explanatory factors such as socioeconomic status, [co-existing illnesses], smoking, or other lifestyle factors.”

The good news is that women can feel confident choosing to have reconstructive breast surgery after a mastectomy if that is the decision that feels right for them.