In October, 2012, the first ever BRA Day during Breast Cancer Awareness Month was observed. I couldn’t help but wonder what the purpose of such a designation might be. But as I further researched information about breast reconstruction after breast cancer surgery, I truly became alarmed by what I learned. Many women eligible for breast reconstruction following cancer surgery are not being informed of their options.
“I have one other reason that motivates me to fight for this cause. I had a friend who refused to have breast cancer surgery because she refused to give up her breasts. and she ultimately lost her life as a result.”Barbara Jacoby
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.
While so many things have changed since that first BRA Day was instituted 8 years ago, the awareness of options available to both women and men has been woefully lacking. Therefore, as we focus our attention on this disparity on BRA Day 2020 being observed this year on October 21st, I want to share with you an article that I researched that discusses a variety of options.
I know what reconstruction meant to me. It was that final step that made me feel whole again. It meant that I did not have to look in the mirror every day for the rest of my life and see the scars left behind from the devastation of breast cancer. I never want a woman to feel less than whole physically, psychologically or sexually because of what breast cancer took from her, if reconstruction is her choice. But, if you don’t know your options, how can you possibly make this most important decision?
When I had reconstruction 12 years ago, the only option open to me was tissue removal with the placement of expanders for implants followed by reconstruction of the nipple and areola. Now the recommendation is that you add a plastic surgeon to your medical team at the time of diagnosis so that all aspects of treatment are considered when reconstruction is included. The reasons are numerous. There is the surgery itself and whether it will be nipple-sparing and how it will be done depending upon whether and how radiation treatment is delivered, if it is to follow. Consideration is given to whether implants will be used or whether one of several fat grafting techniques will be utilized. And now, microsurgeons even have available to them a new advancement known as ReSensation that is performed as part of free flap reconstruction that is designed to restore sensation to the nerves that are cut when breast tissue is removed during mastectomy which leads to numbness and a loss of sensation. And as future technology becomes available, patients need to know about all options in order for them to make the best decisions regarding their own treatment.
I have one other reason that motivates me to fight for this cause. I had a friend who refused to have breast cancer surgery because she refused to give up her breasts. and she ultimately lost her life as a result. Had the technology that is used today been available when she was alive and had she had the insurance coverage as afforded to us by law today, I do believe that the outcome would have been different. So, Diane, this one’s for you! I don’t want any person to feel that they have to make the choice of life or death because reconstruction options are not shared with them.
Barbara Jacoby is an award winning blogger that has contributed her writings to multiple online publications that have touched readers worldwide.