Some Mastectomy Patients May Be Ill-Informed About Breast Reconstruction

Are breast reconstruction patients making high-quality decisions about their procedures? This is the question posed by a recent article in the Journal of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, which has revealed that women treated with mastectomy were not well-informed about breast reconstruction. This is particularly serious since these patients were highly involved in making treatment decisions with their doctors.

The study was a cross-sectional survey of early-stage breast cancer survivors from four university medical centers. The survey included measures of knowledge about specific reconstruction facts, personal goals and concerns, and involvement in decision making.

Here are the survey questions, followed by the answer and the percentage of participants who answered correctly:

  1. Are women more satisfied with reconstruction at the time of the mastectomy or with delayed reconstruction? (They are equally satisfied, 33.3%)
  2. Are women more satisfied with the look and feel of breast implants or flaps? (Flaps, 15%)
  3. Does an implant use fat and tissue from other parts of the body to make a breast? (No, 13.1%)
  4. Does breast reconstruction with a flap usually require more than one surgery? (Yes, 28.6%)
  5. Which breast reconstruction surgery heals faster? (Implants, 57.1%)
  6. Roughly what percentage of women who have breast reconstruction will have a major complication, such as needing hospitalization or an unplanned procedure, within 2 years? Is it below 25, 25-50, 50-75, or more than 75? (25-50%, with only 3.6% knowing the correct answer!)
  7. How does breast reconstruction affect future screening for breast cancer? (Little to no effect, 35.7%)

A mastectomy is a life-changing experience, and reconstruction surgery offers many women a path to renewal and normality. Before taking that step, however, it’s always a good idea to ask lots of questions to make the best possible decision.

Women considering reconstruction surgery should ask their plastic surgeon about their options, and talk to others who have had similar experiences. They can also view resources from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) website, which has lots of information about breast reconstruction procedures.

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