Two recent reports indicate that more women are electing to have breast reconstruction after their treatment for breast cancer has completed. This mirrors our observations at Breastlink, where more than 90% of our breast cancer patients undergo a breast reconstructive procedure. What are the factors contributing to this increase?
Breast Reconstruction Surgery Increasing
A January 2013 study published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery compared the rate of an immediate breast reconstruction surgery from 1998 to 2008. The analysis tracked 178,600 mastectomy cases in the period, which provide a large sample size to identify any trends. The study reported the rate that women selected immediate reconstruction after mastectomy increased from 21% in 1998 to 38% in 2008.
Another important study, published in the March 20, 2014 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology (JCO), used a database of 20,560 women who had a mastectomy for breast cancer from 1998 to 2007. Their research, presented at the 2013 annual meeting of American Society for Radiation Oncology, showed breast reconstruction use increased from 46% to 63%.
In an accompanying podcast, the JCO noted this increase coincided with an increase in health plans that covered breast reconstruction. Additionally, the podcast episode discussed that breast reconstruction surgery rates in the United States vary by age, geographic location, availability of plastic surgery and by medical institution. Amongst women more than 65, breast reconstruction rates widely vary in private institutions, from 0 to 44%.
Why is Breast Reconstruction Surgery Increasing?
Although there are a number of factors that have led to an increase in breast reconstruction procedures, I believe that patient education has played a key role. Many women have shared numerous physical and psychosocial benefits with their doctors and friends. Women now have greater access to educational resources and have empowered themselves to play a larger role in their treatment and recovery process.
Another important factor was the 1998 Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act (WHCRA). Also known as “Janet’s Law”, it requires all health insurance carriers to cover breast reconstructive surgery. In 2012 California passed a law that expanded protections for patients who elect for breast reconstruction. Amongst other provisions, the law:
Requires every health care service plan contract and health insurance policy that provides coverage for mastectomies and lymph node dissections to allow the length of any hospital stay to be determined by the attending physician and surgeon in consultation with the patient.
Breastlink Breast Reconstruction Surgery Consultation
Most breast centers today consist of breast cancer surgeons working together with medical oncologists. Breastlink is one of the few cancer centers in the country to have full time plastic surgeons on the breast cancer team. This is a reflection of our belief in the importance of not just treating the cancer, but treating the whole patient.
All of our breast cancer patients are offered a consultation with a member of our plastic surgery team, whether they are seeking breast preserving surgery (lumpectomy) or a mastectomy. Many of our patients have shared that their decision to have breast reconstruction helped them in their breast cancer journey. As one patient recently shared with us “it helped to preserve my femininity and allowed me to feel whole again.”
To learn more about breast reconstruction please visit the following educational pages on our website:
- An overview of breast reconstruction surgery options.
- Breast reconstruction with implants.
- Breast reconstruction with tissue.
- A plastic surgeon’s perspective of oncoplastic breast surgery.
To schedule a breast reconstruction surgery consultation with Dr. Justin West, Dr. Mark Gaon or Dr. Ryan Wong, please visit our appointment request page.