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Guest blog: Choosing Breast Reconstruction Following a Mastectomy

Posted Dec 08 2011 1:15pm

Jean CampbellGetting hit with a breast cancer diagnosis is hard. Deciding what to do about reconstruction isn't any easier. Guest blogger Jean Campbell runs the popular , is a two-time breast cancer survivor and former director of the American Cancer Society's New York City Patient Navigator Program. Jean shares with us the key issues to consider when faced with this choice.

Every woman facing a mastectomy or bilateral mastectomy has the right to know her options when it comes to reconstruction. It is the health care team's obligation to inform her of this right. The usual person to speak to a woman about this right is her surgeon. If the surgeon doesn’t bring it up the woman can and should initiate a discussion about reconstruction.  

New York State and New Mexico have passed laws mandating that a woman be informed of her rights to reconstructive surgery. In other states where no law mandates informing a woman of her rights, it is left to the discretion of her surgeon.

When a woman is scheduled to have a mastectomy, the surgeon should ask her if she is aware that she can have breast reconstruction, and that it is covered by most private health insurance as well as by Medicare and Medicaid.

Breast ImplantIf a woman is interested in learning more about reconstruction, the surgeon will refer her to a plastic surgeon for an in-depth discussion of her options including, but not limited to learning:

  • If reconstruction can be done at the same time as the mastectomy or can or must be delayed
  • The types of reconstructive surgeries and the pros and cons of each
  • The number of additional surgeries needed
  • Anticipated recovery time
  • The benefits and drawbacks of reconstruction

The best source of detailed information about breast reconstruction following a mastectomy, bilateral mastectomy, or a lumpectomy is a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon experienced in breast reconstruction. The plastic surgeon will spend time explaining each procedure.

Choosing Reconstruction
Before a woman decides whether to have reconstruction or forgo reconstruction, whether she is a young woman or an older woman, she needs to think about how important it is to her to have a breast, or breasts.  She needs to be aware that reconstructed breasts will not look exactly like real breasts and they will not have any sensation. If she feels she will look better in her clothes, fell more feminine and look more normal to herself and her spouse or partner, then reconstruction is a viable option for her.

Not Choosing Reconstruction
If a woman chooses not to have reconstruction, the surgeon’s nurse or physician’s assistant can direct her to a boutique that can fit her for bras and a prosthesis (es). Prostheses are covered by most health insurance plans as well as Medicaid or Medicare with a doctor’s prescription. A woman is entitled to yearly replacements of bras and prostheses.

Why would a woman not want reconstruction? Well, speaking from personal experience, primarily, it was not that important to me.  Secondly, I didn’t want to go through any more surgeries. As a two-time survivor, I had my fill of surgeries during the years between my first and second breast cancers.

Every woman facing a mastectomy or bi-lateral mastectomy is entitled to know that she has the option to have reconstruction. It should be her choice to make.

Want to share your experiences? Comment below or join us to let us know your experience.

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