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Breast Reconstruction Awareness Day 2012
By Dr. Jeffrey J. Roth Tue, October 16, 2012 3:03 pm MDT
Breast Reconstruction Awareness Day, or BRA Day, first launched in Canada in 2011. It now occurs annually on the third Wednesday of October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. BRA Day is an initiative designed to promote education, awareness and access regarding post-mastectomy breast reconstruction.
BRA Day USA is a collaborative effort between the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, The Plastic Surgery Foundation, plastic surgeons specializing in breast surgery and reconstruction, nurse case managers, medical device industry representatives and breast cancer support groups. These organizations and breast cancer patients, their families and friends are coordinating events on BRA Day USA that include question and answer sessions, lectures, flash mobs, fundraising parties, advertising campaigns and community events.
Singer/songwriter Jewel is the national spokesperson for BRA Day USA and has written a song, "Flower," to benefit breast reconstruction patients. The talented artist will also be giving a charity concert to raise money and awareness. All proceeds for both the song and concert will go to support breast reconstruction research and patient care.
Las Vegas has recognized the importance of this issue. Mayor Carolyn Goodman has declared October 17th, 2012 “Breast Reconstruction Awareness Day” in the City of Las Vegas, NV.
In honor of BRA Day USA, here are some basic facts and information I would like to share about breast reconstruction:
Breast Reconstruction After Mastectomy
The subject is an important one as so many women do not know that reconstruction after breast cancer surgery is an option. The statistics are alarming: 7 out of 10 women eligible for breast reconstruction following cancer surgery are not being informed of their options. Because of this, some states, such as New York, have passed laws requiring discussion of reconstructive options before surgical resection for breast cancer.
Other studies have shown that less than a quarter (23 percent) of women know the wide range of breast reconstruction options available.
By federal law, breast reconstructive surgery is covered by your health insurance. Indeed, the reconstruction of the other side for symmetry is also covered by law. Your cost may vary by technique and insurance coverage.
What is Breast Reconstruction?
Breast reconstruction is achieved through several plastic surgery techniques that attempt to restore a breast to near normal shape, appearance and size following a mastectomy. There are now several techniques that weren’t around ten years ago.
There are three main procedure steps in any breast reconstruction:
Creation of a new breast mound
Touch-ups of the reconstruction, and possible modification of the opposite breast (lift, reduction) in patients having a mastectomy of one side (optional)
Creation of a new nipple and areola (optional)
Is Breast Reconstruction the Right Choice For You?
Most breast cancer survivors who have had a complete or partial mastectomy (removal of all or some of the breast tissue and nipple) are candidates for breast reconstruction. If you have had, or will need radiation therapy to the breast, it may influence the type of breast reconstruction and when you can have it. Some patients will need chemotherapy after their mastectomy, and this too can affect the timing of your reconstruction.
While breast reconstruction is considered elective surgery, undergoing breast reconstruction can have profound emotional and practical benefits. It is also important to keep in mind that breast reconstruction does not interfere with the treatment of breast cancer or surveillance for recurrence. It can, however, help to enhance your confidence and self-image after mastectomy.
The decision to have breast reconstruction is a personal one, to be made by you and your loved ones. It is important to know that not all patients are candidates for all types of reconstruction. The type of reconstruction you undergo will be decided by you and your surgeon, depending on your particular needs, anatomy and previous treatments. It is best to see a board certified plastic surgeon and talk with them about your goals. Together you will come up with a plan individualized for you.
So many lives are touched by breast cancer. It affects 1 in 8 women. 226,870 new cases of invasive breast cancer in women and 63,300 new cases of carcinoma in situ (CIS) will be found this year (CIS is non-invasive and is the earliest form of breast cancer). Sadly, approximately 39,500 women will die from breast cancer in 2012.
The chance of dying from breast cancer is about 1 in 36. Breast cancer death rates have been going down. This is probably the result of finding the cancer earlier and better treatment. Right now there are more than 2.9 million breast cancer survivors in the United States. It is imperative that early detection and screening continue and that patients get appropriate care through the spectrum of the disease process.
A patient of mine said it best: at the very end of the long, difficult process, the reconstruction made her feel whole again. Let us continue to help those survivors “close the loop” on the disease process.
Jeffrey J. Roth, M.D., F.A.C.S.
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