October, 2012 heralded the first-ever BRA Day during Breast Cancer Awareness Month in the United States and I couldn’t help but wonder what the purpose of such a designation might be. But I couldn’t believe what I found in my research about breast reconstruction after breast cancer surgery. According to the “Quick Facts” that I found on a website devoted to breast cancer reconstruction, you might want to consider the following:
Many women eligible for breast reconstruction following cancer surgery are not being informed of their options. All women should know their options. It’s time to close the loop on breast cancer.
Studies have revealed:
- Eighty-nine percent of women want to see breast reconstruction surgery results before undergoing cancer treatment.
- Less than a quarter (23 percent) of women know the wide range of breast reconstruction options available.
- Only 22 percent of women are familiar with the quality of outcomes that can be expected.
- Only 19 percent of women understand that the timing of their treatment for breast cancer and the timing of their decision to undergo reconstruction greatly impacts their options and results.
I think that this is just one more bit of information that needs to be added to Breast Cancer “Awareness” Month. While some may choose not to have reconstruction, as is their own personal choice, no one should have to make that decision without knowing their options for such treatment. Nor should anyone make such a choice because of financial considerations without knowing what coverage and/or opportunities might be available to them.
My first real interaction with the world of breast cancer occurred many years before my own diagnosis. A very special lady that I knew, Diane, was diagnosed with breast cancer but absolutely refused to give up her breasts. She lived with her own breasts for a number of years as that breast cancer overtook the rest of her body but she ultimately died because there is no cure for breast cancer. However, had she chosen to have a double mastectomy, she more than likely would still be alive today.
I don’t know what Diane’s options were, if any, for reconstruction but I don’t want another woman to choose to keep her breasts because she believes she has no other choice. No woman should have to look in the mirror every day to see only the scars from her surgeries if such is not her choice. No woman should have to wear a prosthetic in order to give her some shape so that her clothing doesn’t give away her secret unless that is her preference. And certainly no woman should have to compromise her own feelings of sexuality and/or a sexual relationship with a partner when reconstructive options are available, if that is not what she wants.
I have heard breast removal compared to an amputation and I do believe that to be a fair analysis. The physical and psychological effects on a woman are not even measurable in this day and age when sexuality has such a major role in our society. Dealing with a diagnosis of breast cancer is extremely difficult under the best of circumstances, let alone being faced with the necessity of the removal of those body parts that many see as a reflection of their femininity. But to have the option to have reconstruction if you choose and never be apprised of this option is a very sad state of affairs if you ask me.
I know what reconstruction meant to me. It made me feel whole again. Every woman who faces a mastectomy has the right to reconstruction if that is her choice. It might not make you forget that you have had cancer but it sure helps to not see that constant reminder every time that you look in the mirror or glance downward.
I want every woman to have the freedom of choice that I had in knowing her options so that she can make choices about her health and her life with as much information as possible. Therefore, you may want to consider checking out the most recent information available in order to learn more about this most important treatment option that you may want to choose for yourself. And please consider doing so even before your first treatment and/or surgery because everything has an impact on the success of any reconstruction that you may choose. The more we know, the better the discussions we can have with our doctors and the better choices we can make for ourselves and the ones we love.
Barbara Jacoby is an award winning blogger that has contributed her writings to multiple online publications that have touched readers worldwide.