Barriers To Post-Mastectomy Breast Reconstruction In Canada
Education and Advocacy Approximately 25,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in Canada in 2015.
After being diagnosed, many of these women will undergo a potentially life-saving mastectomy, the surgical removal of one or both breasts, but few will opt for breast reconstruction. Breast reconstruction is a surgery to recreate a breast that has been removed by mastectomy. Using an implant, the patient’s own body tissue or a combination of both, a plastic surgeon aims to reconstruct a breast to near normal shape, appearance and size.
While most women who are having or have had a mastectomy are candidates for breast reconstruction, today only nine percent of Canadian women opt for the procedure, despite the fact that breast reconstruction is a fully-insured medical procedure in Canada.
Addressing Knowledge Gaps
Considering 40 percent of American women currently opt for the same surgery, there appears to be barriers to post-mastectomy breast reconstruction in this country. According to a 2011 review in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, increased age, non-white ethnic background, low income and non-urban residence are all factors associated with decreased rates of breast reconstruction. The paper also indicated that older patients were less likely than younger women to receive information about the procedure and concluded that “addressing these gaps in knowledge may increase the rate of breast reconstruction in Canada.”
"Considering 40 percent of American women currently opt for the same surgery, there appears to be barriers to post-mastectomy breast reconstruction in this country."
A 2011 study in the Annals of Surgical Oncology found that more than 40 per cent of women who decided against breast reconstruction felt they were not adequately informed about their options. In addition, there are simply too many common myths and misconceptions out there about breast reconstruction, such as “implants are unsafe and increase the risk of breast cancer” and “reconstructed breasts limit the ability to detect breast cancer and increase the risk of postoperative complications.”
Improving Access and Awareness
In actuality, research has shown that breast reconstruction can help women enjoy a better body image, better self-esteem and feelings of sexual attractiveness. And while the decision to have breast reconstruction is obviously a personal decision that requires careful and thorough consideration, every woman deserves to have access to accurate, unbiased information.
“Breast reconstruction can help women enjoy a better body image, better self-esteem and feelings of sexual attractiveness”
To empower women to make more informed choices, Willow Breast & Hereditary Cancer Support first introduced Breast Reconstruction Awareness (BRA) Day (October 21st) five years ago. Growing in size every year, there are now 22 BRA Day events across the country that will provide education to approximately 2,500 women, while giving them the opportunity to connect with medical professionals.
These events should go a long way in removing the barriers to breast reconstruction in Canada. For more information, please visit www.bra-day.com.