No matter what stage of development, facing breast cancer is a tremendous challenge. The number of unknowns, ranging from the rate of the cancer’s progression to the effectiveness and repercussions of the treatments available, make it difficult to find peace of mind when facing the disease. Women often fear how the disease and related treatments will affect their appearance, but fortunately, there are many reconstructive options available.

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The Fear Of Treatment

Breast cancer is scary enough as it is, but with most patients eventually needing some form of treatment or surgery, women are forced to wonder what they might look like after treatment. One survey found that 89 percent of women wanted to know the possible effects of breast reconstruction surgery before undergoing some form of breast cancer treatment. But less than 25 percent of patients knew the scope of the cancer treatments they were pursuing or the full potential of reconstruction.

Treatment Options

The treatment option cited as most worrisome was a mastectomy, a procedure in which the entire affected breast is surgically removed. Depending on the size and type of the tumor, a lumpectomy (removing only the lump) is possible, but if there are multiple tumors present, or if radiotherapy has been unsuccessful, a mastectomy may be the only viable option. Many women feel that breasts are a symbol of femininity, and the threat of having one or both fully removed may be intimidating and psychologically scarring.

Other treatment options include radiotherapy, which can help eliminate the cancer in many cases without pursuing a full mastectomy. However, patients may notice a shrinking of the breast that was treated, and a fibrosis that makes the tissue much harder. While not as damaging as a full mastectomy, pursuing radiotherapy may also leave women with damaged tissue or an asymmetrical look.

The Possibilities Of Reconstruction

Fortunately, there are many reconstructive possibilities for patients who have undergone some form of cancer treatment. Medical and scientific advancements have made the realm of plastic surgery more effective for patients who have suffered from the effects of cancer treatments and surgery. For those who have undergone a full mastectomy, reconstructive surgery is an option. Radiotherapy’s associated fibrosis makes conventional implants ineffective, but the reconstruction of the autologous tissue can be a first step toward full reconstruction.

A group of plastic surgeons, in response to the trend of treatment fears, have organized an event that can help patients learn about the possibilities of reconstructive surgery, known as Breast Reconstruction Awareness (BRA) Day. The event occurs on the third Wednesday of October, and hopes to bring together patients and surgeons in order to spread information and raise awareness of the potential benefits that reconstruction can provide.

Many women diagnosed with breast cancer have minimal information about how the disease and treatments will affect their appearance, or about what reconstructive options are available once the cancer is gone. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with breast cancer, you may wish to consult a reconstructive specialist to analyze the possibilities before treatment begins.