Reframing the Breast Reconstruction Discussion - Know ALL Options and Decide What is Best For You
By: Courtney Floyd
Every morning over a cup of coffee I scan through the latest news and blogs on breast cancer and breast reconstruction. I love keeping up to date on the latest studies and improved technologies! This morning I came across an article in the New York Times titled Going Flat After Breast Cancer.
I work with many breast cancer patients forced to make difficult decisions every day. The title of the article immediately caught my attention and I was excited to read about the brave women and their decision to not have breast reconstruction after their mastectomy.
While using a primarily negative tone towards breast reconstruction, this article also paints plastic surgeons and oncologists as pushy and aggressive when it comes to discussing reconstructive options with patients. The author even goes on to state “breast reconstruction has become the standard of care”. Unfortunately, we can only wish every woman who wanted reconstruction was given that option.
Here’s another perspective…
Less than 25% of breast cancer patients are informed of ALL their breast reconstruction options. That means about 75% of patients undergo lumpectomy or mastectomy without knowing about the broad range of options available to them.
I have personally talked with many women who express through tears how if they had only known their options ahead of time they would not have struggled with self-image or put up with prosthetic for so long. I have also met and spoken to countless women who experienced complications with implants only to find out years later that implants weren’t their only option.
I am a firm believer every patient should have a voice when it comes to their own healthcare decisions and all choices must be respected equally. Choosing not to undergo breast reconstruction is a choice. Choosing breast reconstruction is a choice. Both can be the “best” choice for any given individual.
Dr. Minas Chrysopoulo, plastic surgeon at PRMA, firmly believes “shared decision making between the physician and patient is crucial in achieving the best patient outcomes.” I could not agree more with this statement! Through shared decision making, patients and their physicians can work together to formulate the best treatment plan, personalized for them.
Patients should be informed of all their options—including reconstruction without implants and no reconstruction. Pros and cons of each option should be discussed and in no way, should a patient feel bullied or pushed into something they are not comfortable with.
Let’s reframe this discussion. It shouldn’t be about which option a patient chooses. It’s not about whether reconstruction or living flat is best. The final choice shouldn’t matter. Let’s make this about patients having all the options and their choice, whatever that may be, being respected. That’s what’s most important.
I applaud these beautiful women in this article! I only hope that through sharing their stories they will inspire the breast cancer community to bring awareness in a respectful and evidence based manor to all options available today.