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Category Archives: Breast Reconstruction

Women Need More Information on Breast Reconstruction Options

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Current methods of detection and treatment have made breast cancer a less fatal threat. But beating cancer is only half the battle. Breast reconstruction is the next step in recovery for most women.

The Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act of 1998 has made is possible for many women to gain access to affordable or fully-covered reconstruction following mastectomy. But a lack of communication between doctors and patients has caused some women to unknowingly forgo immediate breast reconstruction.

Many women are simply unaware that most insurance companies, including Medicaid and Medicare, cover the cost of reconstruction because their doctors fail to mention it.

According to a 2009 poll published by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 70 percent of women with breast cancer who are eligible for breast-reconstructive surgery are not informed by their physician that the option exists.

To gap the bridge in communication, New York and Texas have recently passed laws that require hospitals and physicians to discuss reconstruction options with their patients before undergoing breast cancer surgery.

While these laws have the right intentions, many physicians feel they may create even more issues for hospital staff.

According to Dr. John C. Oeltjen, a Miami plastic surgeon, mandating a law in all states “”would create uniformity among hospitals as far as disclosure of patient options goes,” but he argues it “would not solve all the logistical problems of coordinating consultations and then surgeries between … doctors.”

The issue is not an easy one to solve, but it’s clear that women are missing out on important health-related information. 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime, and breast reconstruction surgery is a key component to emotional and physical recovery.

Source: Orlando Sentinel

Breast Reconstruction Awareness Events to Launch Across the U.S.

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Nearly 1 in 8 women in the U.S. will develop breast cancer. Following a mastectomy, breast reconstruction is a vital component to the recovery process. While the Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act (1998) mandates that insurance companies, group health plans and health maintenance organizations cover the costs of breast reconstruction following a mastectomy, many states do not have legislation required to remind patients of their rights.

In an effort to raise awareness, Vancouver, Wash., plans to launch a day dedicated specifically to breast reconstruction advocacy according to Mayor Tim Leavitt. The event, deemed Breast Reconstruction Advocacy Victory Event (BRAVE) Day, is the first of its kind, but many, including American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) member Allen Gabriel, MD, hope that it will catch on in cities across the country.

“We would like all ASPS members to wear pink on March 21 to help us celebrate BRAVE Day,” he says. “Our goal is to bring attention to the advocacy efforts that are needed to counteract the lack of meaningful legislation targeting breast reconstruction rights.”

To show their support, Alaska Airlines employees will wear pink BRAVE Day bracelets all day on March 21st. Alaska Airlines also plans to display banners at hubs across the U.S. to bring national attention to this important event.

A nationwide event for Breast Reconstruction Awareness (BRA) is also being launched by the ASPS. The observance is planned for October 17th, during Breast Cancer Awareness month. Events organized by the ASPS will be launched across the U.S., Canada and 20 other countries.

You can learn more about local and national breast reconstruction awareness events by visiting myreconstructionrights.org.

Breast Reconstruction After Mastectomy Safe for Older Patients

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In the newest issue of The American Surgeon, a new study suggests that breast reconstruction surgery is safe for women over the age of 60 who have undergone a mastectomy (surgical removal of the breast).

“The removal of a breast has implications for the psychological, social and sexual well-being of the patient, establishing the need that reconstruction should be offered,” says Marissa Howard-McNatt, M.D., assistant professor of surgery at Wake Forest Baptist. “However, little is known about rates of reconstruction in elderly women after breast cancer.”

Breast cancer rates continue to rise and 48 percent of all cases affect women over the age of 65. This population, however, is much less inclined to elect breast reconstruction after mastectomy when compared to their younger counterparts. As a result, less has been known regarding the safety of this procedure in older women.

Research lead by Howard-McNatt and colleges sought to establish the safety and tolerability of breast reconstruction in older patients. The team of researchers compiled data from 89 cases of women over the age of 60 who elected breast reconstruction after mastectomy.

The results were positive, showing that breast reconstruction in older women was a safe and well tolerated option, even if older women are less likely to elect surgery than younger age groups.

According to Howard-McNatt, breast reconstruction can significantly increase life expectancy in these patients. “Generally, breast cancer in the elderly is less aggressive than in younger patients. Life expectancy can still be substantial – 16 years for a 70-year-old and greater than six years for an otherwise healthy 80-year-old.”

The number of women over the age of 65 is expected to double over the next 40 years and the rates of breast reconstruction after mastectomy is anticipated to increase as average life expectancies do.

Learn more about breast reconstruction after mastectomy in Houston, TX.

Immediate and Early Breast Reconstruction Rates See Growth

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Data from the National Cancer Database of the American College of Surgeons and the American Cancer Society of 396,434 patients who have undergone a mastectomy has shown a significant increase in the amount of women choosing to undergo either immediate or early breast reconstruction surgery.

Twenty-three percent of women in 2007 elected to have immediate or early reconstructive surgery, nearly doubling from just twelve percent in 1998. While these results suggest that more women have access to breast reconstruction surgery, data also indicates that access barriers still persist for women who are post mastectomy.

Racial, Socioeconomic and Geographic Barriers Still Persist for Breast Reconstruction Surgery Patients

While research did show that the rate of immediate or early reconstructive surgery has been growing, growth trends were not equal across all subgroups of women. According to the data, the most likely recipients of immediate or early breast reconstruction from 1998 to 2007 were:

  • non-African American women under the age of 50,
  • who either lived in a large metropolitan area,
  • were cared for by an academic affiliated medical institution,
  • or earned a higher than average household income.

The disparity measured among differing racial, socioeconomic and geographic groups was statistically significant and the gap did not appear to be narrowing over time.

Breast reconstruction surgery has become available to more women than ever before, but despite this overall increase in utilization, the fact still remains that the medical industry is not doing enough to increase awareness, education and accessibility for immediate or early breast reconstruction for women across all socioeconomic, racial and geographic groups. Continued efforts by medical professionals are essential to progress.

Learn more about breast reconstruction in the Houston area.

Rapid Improvements in Well Being After TRAM or DIEP Breast Reconstruction

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In the journal Cancer, a study of 51 women shows “rapid psychological recovery” after TRAM Flap or DIEP flap breast reconstruction after mastectomy. Patients reported marked improvements in psychological, social and sexual well-being.

However, both procedures source the grafted tissue from the patient’s abdomen, so lingering abdominal weakness was often reported 3 months after the surgery. This came as a surprise to the authors, since they expected the side effects to subside after about 8 weeks.

“Maybe there are things we can do before surgery to optimize these patients’ conditions,” suggests the study’s author Dr. Toni Zhong to The Canadian Press. “For example, maybe it’s a good idea for us to have a devoted physiotherapist who can focus on doing abdominal strength training before surgery.”

Despite side effects, the patients were generally satisfied with the results of their TRAM or DIEP flap breast reconstruction. “The overwhelming answer was these patients did not regret it and were highly satisfied,” said Dr. Zhong.

Each breast reconstruction procedure has pros and cons to consider. Implants are a popular choice, but do not use natural tissue and often require a future revision procedure. While TRAM and DIEP both use the abdomen as a tissue source, the DIEP procedure spares the abdominal muscle tissue.

When choosing the best technique for your breast reconstruction, seek out a board certified plastic surgeon who is knowledgeable about all techniques.

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