According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, more and more breast cancer patients are opting to have reconstruction surgery, after undergoing a mastectomy or other operation. Although this data did show a clear increase in the number of reconstructions, the data also showed that this is not a uniform trend and that what is popular in one area, may not be in another.
But it is not Silicon Valley verse the rest of the country either. While only 18 percent of all breast cancer patients went ahead with the reconstruction surgery in North Dakota, a comparatively shocking 80 percent of women underwent the surgery in Washington, D.C.
Across the country, the amount of reconstructive surgeries, relative to breast cancer patients, grew from 46 percent in 1998 to 63 percent in 2007. The study was conducted by a group of researchers, led by Dr. Reshma Jagsi, who is the associate chairwoman at the University of Michigan’s department of radiation oncology.
Jagsi’s team studied information from more than 20,000 women who had undergone a mastectomy during the same ten-year period. The average age of a woman in this study was 51. Jagsi said that the reason she felt compelled to do this research was because there was little information available to women since the Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act was passed in 1998. This law tells women that their health care provider must cover all the stages of breast reconstruction if they also offer mastectomy coverage.
Dr. Ormen Lerman, who works at the Institute for Comprehensive Breast Care at Lenox Hill Hospital as the director of breast reconstruction, thinks that the reason there has been such an increase in the amount of women who chose to have preventative double mastectomies is because more and more women feel comfortable that they can have reconstruction surgery and return to their normal lives.
He also thinks that a major factor; one that is a sign we are headed in the right direction as a society, is that women have more information about their options now and there are more highly skilled plastic surgeons.
Still, Jagsi has stressed in her report that there is quite a remarkable difference in the data across the country. However, one reason she believes this could be the case is not because of any difference of opinion but rather the higher density of talented plastic surgeons in large cities as opposed to rural locations. She said that this should be a major message from the study and that as a country, the U.S. needs to keep working on approving the system so that all women have quality reconstruction surgery available to them as a part of their options when they are fighting something like breast cancer. Lerman agrees with this reading of the material, but also added that it is a good sign that those women who are within access have the information to make a decision that works well for them.
Although the limit of monetary reimbursement has changed over the years, providers are still obligated to provide reconstruction for mastectomy patients. This coverage, along with skilled surgeons, should continue to increase the amount of women who find reconstruction surgery a popular option after having breast cancer.
By Nick Manai