A recent survey of 762 breast cancer patients who were eligible for breast reconstruction found that 43 percent did not receive information about breast reconstruction options when making treatment decisions at diagnosis.
Kim Thiboldeaux, president and CEO of the nonprofit Cancer Support Community (CSC), which conducted the survey, said, “It is critical that women get information on breast reconstruction early on because it can be an important part of quality of life and image. I think there is a lot of attention focused on treatment and curing cancer and sometimes in the health care system, reconstruction becomes a secondary concern.”
In response to the survey, the CSC is creating a program that streamlines information about breast reconstruction called Frankly Speaking about Cancer: Spotlight on Breast Reconstruction. The program will include 75 free, patient education workshops scheduled to take place throughout the U.S. in 2011 and 2012; a comprehensive patient education breast reconstruction resource guide; and multimedia education tools and online web content to engage women in discussions around breast reconstruction.
What information are women looking for about breast reconstruction? The survey found that women wished they knew more about the following:
- How they would feel after reconstruction (31%)
- How they would look after reconstruction (31%)
- Future breast health (23%)
- Details of each procedure (15%)
- Risks and benefits of reconstruction at the point of mastectomy vs. at a later point (14%)
According to the breast cancer patients surveyed, there are a variety of sources they currently use to get information about breast reconstruction, in addition to their health care team, including:
- Breast cancer patients and survivors (56%)
- Internet (50%)
- Friends and family (35%)
- Medical literature (34%)
- Online communities (29%)
Physical appearance and body image were the most influential factors in their decision to undergo reconstruction, while financial concerns and the opinions of others had the least influence, according to the survey.
The survey also found that 60 percent of respondents opted for breast reconstruction following a partial or full mastectomy and 87 percent of respondents who discussed breast reconstruction options with a plastic surgeon reported that they were mostly or extremely satisfied with their decision to undergo breast reconstruction.