It is October and once again, pink stuff is everywhere reminding us that it is Breast Cancer Awareness month! This campaign reminds us how early detection plays an important role in survival from this disease, which will affect up to 1 in 8 women.
Of course, awareness, early detection and survival are of top priority. With survival being at an all-time high, we believe that the ongoing quality of life of the women affected by breast cancer should be a factor when making treatment decisions, but all too often reconstructive surgery is an afterthought.
For instance, did you know that a 2007 study done by the University of Michigan found that up to 70% of women that have mastectomy are not informed of their reconstruction options? Dr. Welch was so alarmed at the statistic that she decided to replicate the study at UTMC and found the same results!
Of course, reconstruction is not something every woman may want or may be a candidate for, but every woman should be made aware of her options. For many women, reconstruction is a lifestyle decision that helps them cope with the emotions of breast cancer treatment and recovery.
Treatments for breast cancer, especially radiation therapy, can also greatly effect possible outcomes for reconstruction. Many women are unaware that they have options when it comes to the timing of their mastectomy, treatment and reconstruction which can result in a more difficult reconstruction process if radiation treatment is done first. This is just one example of what can happen, but unfortunately one we see quite often.
In 2015, Congress passed new legislation called the Breast Cancer Patient Education Act that calls “to raise awareness of, and to educate breast cancer patients anticipating surgery, especially patients who are members of racial and ethnic minority groups, regarding the availability and coverage of breast reconstruction, prostheses, and other options.”
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) worked closely with congress to bring this legislation into law and have also invested their own resources in the form of an annual awareness campaign, BRA Day USA. This began as a way for all involved in the cancer care process to come together and educate the public on reconstruction options. BRA Day USA is celebrated on the 3rd Wednesday in October every year, this year it is October 18th.
Since 2015, the ASPS has shifted their focus to year-round awareness, but still celebrates BRA Day as an organization as well as with their member physicians holding events, speaking engagements and more. This year, Dr. Welch will be hosting a special Facebook live event speaking on breast cancer awareness as well as treatment and reconstruction options on Wednesday the 18th at 5:00pm. If you can’t make the live event, it will be available after on the AM page! Be sure to share the news with your mother, sister, friends and colleagues as anyone’s life could be affected by breast cancer.