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Breast Reconstruction Following Mastectomy Increasing in Popularity

A new study shows that the majority of women who have a mastectomy for breast cancer undergo breast reconstruction.

This is a procedure that has dramatically increased over time.

Researchers have recently found that 45 percent of patients underwent breast reconstruction in 1998 and increased to 62 percent by 2007.

Breast reconstruction surgery has been shown to improve the self-image and mental well being of thousands of women who have had the unfortunate trial of cancer.

Because of the increasing number of women making the decision to have their breast reconstructed, it is believed that doctors are doing a better job in informing their patients of their options.

“Breast reconstruction has a big impact on survivors’ quality of life,” says Dr. Reshma Jagsi, M.D. “As more and more people are surviving breast cancer, we need to focus on what that long-term survivorship means for those women. They need to have access to this important part of their treatment.”

Researchers have looked at insurance claims data from a nationwide employment-based database. They found that between 1998 and 2007 a total of 20,506 women had undergone a mastectomy as part of management of their breast cancer.

While the overall rates of reconstructive breast surgery has increased, women who received radiation therapy were much less likely to have reconstructive surgery.

This is concerning, because radiation therapy is increasingly being used after mastectomy as a way to continue to reduce the risk of the cancer returning.

“A growing number of women are eligible for radiation after mastectomy,” says Jagsi. “We have to be aware that this may change patients’ reconstruction options. Patients and physicians have concerns about how best to integrate radiation and reconstruction, and that may be influencing patient decisions.”

In carefully selected patients, radiation saves lives. It is also very well tolerated. However, radiation also may damage normal tissue, which may limit a womens surgical options for breast reconstruction.

Research also revealed a dramatic difference in the number of women having their breast reconstructed based on geographic region with numbers ranging from 18% in North Dakota to 80% in Washington DC. Studies found this was largely due to the limited number of board certified plastic surgeons in those states where fewer women are undergoing breast reconstruction.

When there are variations in practice patterns based on geography, there is a concern that care is not being appropriately individualized to each patient.

Researchers have also found that more women are choosing to have their breast reconstructed with tissue expanders and implants rather than recreating breast mounds using fatty tissue from other regions of their body. Although the later technique tends to result in a more natural appearance, the surgery is much more time consuming and requires a longer hospital stay.

Understandably, many women who have undergone cancer treatments prefer not to extend their hospital stays longer than necessary.

As with any medical procedure, this is one that should be discussed with a board-certified plastic surgeon before it is undergone. Talk to your doctor today if you wish to have this procedure done.

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