The importance of Breast Reconstruction Awareness Day
Breast Reconstruction Awareness Day educates women about post-cancer breast reconstruction options. Celebrated this year on October 19, BRA Day features parades and community events in more than a dozen states throughout the nation.
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons collaborates with its philanthropic arm, The Plastic Surgery Foundation, to make BRA Day possible. Corporate partners, breast cancer support groups, nurse navigators and plastic surgeons specializing in breast surgery all contribute to raising breast reconstruction awareness. According to Renée Robbins, staff vice president of education, meetings and development at ASPS, this includes letting women know that insurance covers breast reconstruction.
"Breast cancer doesn't just stop when the cancer is gone. That patient journey continues. We want to make sure that women are able to continue their lives in a way that meets their expectations," said Robbins.
Insurance covers reconstruction
The Women's Health and Cancer Rights act of 1998 requires insurance plans that cover mastectomy also cover breast reconstruction surgery. However, surveys show that 70 percent of women have not been made aware of this federal law.
"It's just not acceptable in this day and age," said Robbins.
Through BRA Day, Robbins works towards closing that knowledge gap so women throughout the United States, as part of a continuum of care, know their reconstruction options following mastectomy.
Surveys show there is a general lack of knowledge about breast reconstruction issues. One-third of Americans do not know women experience an emotional adjustment period after breast reconstruction. One in four Americans incorrectly believes a woman can't breastfeed after breast reconstruction, while almost half are unsure.
Knowing the options
Data in 2015 showed that less than half of women requiring a mastectomy were being offered breast reconstruction surgery as an option.
"We want one hundred percent of women who have a diagnosis of cancer to at least have the opportunity to speak to a plastic surgeon about the reconstructive options," said ASPS Board Vice President of Development Scot Bradley Glasberg, MD, FACS.
Glasberg said in 2015, when he was ASPS president, the Breast Cancer Patient Education Act was passed. It funded efforts to educate the public and women on the benefits of breast reconstruction and the availability of health insurance benefits to cover it.
Reconstruction is an intimate decision
"It's all very personal. The last thing I would ever want to presume is that a woman needs breasts to feel whole. But, many women do," said Glasberg. "I can come in and help that healing process."
The options for breast reconstruction include implants, flaps and fat grafting. Although many women choose not to have reconstruction and get a flat closure – which is a valid option that resonates with some – others, like Christine, want their breasts restored with the help of a plastic surgeon. Christine had a double mastectomy with breast reconstruction and said she is thrilled with her results.
"You no longer feel like a victim. You don't feel like you have cancer. You don't feel like cancer has you," said Christine. "I'm grateful that when I see myself every day, especially when I'm dressed, I look exactly the same. Actually, I look better."
Advances in surgery now make it possible to remove cancer and restore the breasts simultaneously.
"We've come so far in that we can do this all at once; it really leaves a woman in a place where she can feel good about herself even though she's going through a diagnosis of cancer," said Glasberg.
Supporting breast reconstruction awareness
Those who want to support breast reconstruction awareness can register for an upcoming charity run or contribute directly to the Breast Reconstruction Awareness Campaign.
The Plastic Surgery Foundation's Close The Loop 5K welcomes runners back for the fifth year on Saturday, October 29, at Castle Island in Boston. The run occurs during Plastic Surgery The Meeting 2022.
The goal is to raise $100,000 to support breast reconstruction research and charity. The money raised will be awarded through the Breast Reconstruction Awareness Campaign.
To find a qualified plastic surgeon for any cosmetic or reconstructive procedure, consult a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. All ASPS members are board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, have completed an accredited plastic surgery training program, practice in accredited facilities and follow strict standards of safety and ethics. Find an ASPS member in your area.