Breast self-examination, screening for breast cancer and preventative breast cancer surgeries have all become increasingly common practice, and along with these the concept of breast reconstruction following cancer treatment has also gained momentum.
Colin Morrison, Consultant Plastic Surgeon at St. Vincent’s University Hospital spoke to us about the role of breast reconstruction and how opting for reconstruction improves a patient’s quality of life after cancer treatment.
“I suppose historically, the focus was always on treatment of the disease. As a profession, we were happy if we eradicated the cancer and the patient survived. Now we are asking are these women happy after their treatment, are they confident with their body image, have they returned to all their normal activities, do they feel comfortable at work and at home? A number of studies have demonstrated that women opting for breast reconstruction at the same time as their mastectomy or as a delayed procedure, report higher quality of life outcomes compared to those who do not. These women are generally more satisfied with their body image and sexuality, and are emotionally and psychologically more content”, says Mr. Morrison.
The 2011 National Mastectomy Breast Cancer Audit, which compiled data from more than 18,000 women treated at 270 UK hospitals, revealed that approximately 8 to 21 percent of women in the UK opted for breast reconstruction post-treatment. Morrison adds that, “while the satisfaction of those who have reconstructive surgery is higher, only about 21 per cent of women in the UK are doing so and I am concerned that the figures in Ireland may be much lower.”
Morrison stresses it’s important to be aware of the many reconstructive options available for women, ranging from the timing of the procedure to the type of reconstruction selected (implant-based versus using one’s own tissue). The choice can be tailored to each patient and it should be a joint decision reached by both the patient and their reconstructive surgeon. “It’s about empowering women to make the correct decision for them,” says Mr Morrison. “It is also important to know that reconstruction does not interfere with your cancer treatment and does not increase the chances of a cancer recurring.”
Morrison is a board member of the Beautiful After Breast Cancer Foundation (Beautiful ABC) which promotes breast reconstruction after cancer therapy. Research has highlighted that 10% of women undergoing breast cancer treatment are dissatisfied with the information they are provided with prior to surgery. Beautiful ABC Ireland is an invaluable source of information for patients considering breast reconstruction including information on the types of reconstruction, points of contact for psychological support and centres of excellence in cancer treatment in Ireland.
To find out more and DONATE to Beautiful ABC see here