More Women Having Reconstruction; Implants Being Used More

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Many, but not all, women who have mastectomy to treat breast cancer go on to have one or both breasts reconstructed. There are many ways to reconstruct a breast. Tissue from the back, belly, buttocks, or other part of the body can be used to create a new breast. Doctors call this autologous reconstruction. Saline or silicone gel implants are another option.

A study looking at reconstruction statistics over time found that more U.S. women are having reconstruction after mastectomy. The study also found that more women are opting to have reconstruction with implants and fewer women are choosing autologous reconstruction.

The study was published online on Feb. 18, 2014 by the Journal of Clinical Oncology. Read the abstract of “Trends and Variation in Use of Breast Reconstruction in Patients With Breast Cancer Undergoing Mastectomy in the United States.”

While doctors know about breast reconstruction trends in their practices and locations, until now not much research has been done on national trends.

In this study, the researchers looked at the records of 20,560 women who had mastectomy to remove breast cancer from 1998 to 2007. Half the women were older than 51 and half were younger.

Overall, 56% of the women had reconstruction. The number of women who had reconstruction went up as time passed, no matter where the women lived, how old they were, what their income was, or what type of insurance they had.

The researchers found:

  • 46% of the women had reconstruction in 1998 compared to 63% of women in 2007
  • 56% of the women had autologous reconstruction in 1998 compared to 25% in 2007
  • 3% of women had double mastectomy in 1998 compared to 18% in 2007
  • women who had a double mastectomy were more likely to have reconstruction
  • women who also were treated with radiation were less likely to have reconstruction, but if they did have reconstruction they were more likely to have autologous reconstruction
  • older women were less likely to have reconstruction
  • reconstruction rates varied depending on where women lived: women living in areas with higher income levels and with more plastic surgeons were more likely to have reconstruction

Deciding whether to have a breast reconstructed after surgery to remove breast cancer is a very personal choice. If you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer and are planning your surgery, you may decide not to have reconstruction, but it can be helpful to consider all your options.

Here are some questions you might want to think about as you're making your decision about breast reconstruction:

  • Is it important to you to have a permanent breast shape? Some women prefer to wear a prosthesis instead of having reconstruction.
  • Is it important to you that your breasts to look balanced when wearing a bra and bathing suits? Though you'll be able to see the difference between the rebuilt breast and your other breast when you're naked, reconstruction usually looks very natural when you're wearing a bra or bathing suit.
  • In your unique situation, will breast reconstruction involve several surgeries over a long period of time? For many women, the answer is yes.
  • Will your insurance pay for all the reconstruction procedures? Find out what your insurance company will cover.
  • Did you have a lumpectomy that gave your breast a very different shape than it originally had? If you had a large portion of tissue removed, you might want to have reconstruction to restore a more balanced look.
  • Do you have any other medical conditions that might affect your ability to heal after surgery? If you have diabetes, circulatory problems, or a bleeding disorder, it may take your body longer to heal from reconstruction surgery than someone who doesn't have these conditions.
  • Do you have a condition that might give you a distorted image of your body? If you've been diagnosed with anorexia or bulimia, you may have a hard time accepting how your body looks in general, which may make it hard to accept how your reconstructed breast looks.

For more information, including types of reconstruction and the timing of reconstruction, visit the Breast Reconstruction section.

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