There’s a crucial link unifying patient experiences of mastectomy and breast reconstruction, and this has to do with timing. During the fragile period of a cancer or BRCA diagnosis, shock and despair can be overwhelming and yet at the same time, breast cancer patients are being asked whether they wish to consult with their hospital’s plastic surgical team about possible reconstruction options. It’s a hugely demanding undertaking for anyone.
The notion of a mastectomy is challenging for all women. The removal of a breast (or breasts) not only signifies the removal of an unhealthy organ, but for many, a loss of femininity. The list of questions will be boundless, from the practical \’how will my diagnosis affect my home and work life,\’ to the emotional \’how will my partner and family feel?\’ \’What will I feel about losing a very female part of my body?\’
With high levels of stress and a lack of control following a cancer diagnosis, it’s really not surprising that appointments with the plastic surgical teams can become blurred, with information hard to recall. Patients often report finding it helpful to bring along a partner or a friend to make notes on their behalf during the appointment.
So, let’s keep it simple: if you haven’t yet seen your specialist, or have just returned home from your first appointment with the plastic surgery team, head swimming with information, take this moment to reflect on a couple of key points:
- Breast reconstruction can be performed at the same time as a mastectomy (Immediate Reconstruction) or weeks, months or even years later (Delayed Reconstruction).
- For all patients, it’s good to discuss the immediate or delayed options upfront with your specialist in order to receive the appropriate consultation, so make a note to explore both options fully.
- Patients that are presented all the options and who make a fully informed decision report higher levels of satisfaction with the outcome of their breast reconstruction.
- And there’s another important point to take on board: evidence shows that a breast reconstruction – immediate or delayed – will in no way increase chances of a cancer returning or hide its reappearance.