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American Indian/Alaska Native Patients Less Likely To Undergo Breast Reconstruction
Disparity in reconstruction persists for AI/AN women, reports Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery®

American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) women with breast cancer have consistently lower rates of breast reconstruction after mastectomy compared to non-Hispanic White women, reports a paper in the July issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery®, the official medical journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS). The journal is published in the Lippincott portfolio by Wolters Kluwer.

"Despite an upward trend in reconstruction, AI/AN women continue to be less likely to undergo breast reconstruction," comments Jane Hui, MD, MS, of the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. "While our findings point to some possible approaches to reducing this disparity, it will be essential to also determine Native women's opinions related to breast reconstruction."

Focus on factors affecting breast reconstruction in AI/AN women

Using data from the National Cancer Database, the researchers identified 1,980 AI/AN women and 414,036 non-Hispanic White women who underwent mastectomy for breast cancer between 2004 and 2017. Annual breast reconstruction rates were compared between groups, along with factors associated with decisions about reconstruction.

The two groups differed in some important characteristics. American Indian/Alaska Native women had higher rates of other medical diagnoses (comorbidity), 20% versus 12%; were more likely to have public health insurance, 49% versus 20%; and more likely to undergo single-breast (unilateral) mastectomy.

Over the 13-year study period, breast reconstruction increased in both groups: from 13% to 47% for AI/AN women and from 29% to 62% from non-Hispanic White women. After adjustment for other factors, AI/AN women remained nearly one-half less likely to undergo reconstruction.

Other factors associated with lower reconstruction rates included older age, earlier year of diagnosis, more advanced cancer, unilateral mastectomy, public insurance and living in an area of lower educational attainment. Within the AI/AN group, reconstruction was more likely for younger women; those with more recent diagnosis, less advanced cancer and less comorbidity; and those living in urban areas or areas with a higher level of educational attainment.

Insights for addressing breast reconstruction disparity in Native women

Breast reconstruction after mastectomy has known benefits for some, including improved quality of life and body image. However, breast reconstruction is a personal decision – there is "no optimal proportion" of patients who should opt for reconstruction, Dr. Hui and colleagues note.

American Indian/Alaska Native women face a wide range of health disparities and barriers to medical care, including elevated rates of chronic health conditions, later diagnosis and higher mortality from breast cancer. "Complicating the healthcare environment in which AI/AN receive medical care is chronic underfunding of the Indian Health Service (IHS), implicit bias against AI/AN and fraught relationships between physicians and AI/AN patients," the researchers write.

Their study offers insights into factors associated with the lower rate of breast reconstruction for AI/AN women with breast cancer. "Multidisciplinary efforts to improve care delivery to AI/AN women may continue to minimize disparities through earlier diagnosis and treatment," Dr. Hui and coauthors conclude. "Simultaneously, qualitative research into AI/AN perspectives on breast cancer care could improve shared decision-making between physicians and AI/AN patients, empowering AI/AN women to choose post-mastectomy reconstruction if they so desire."

Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery® is published by Wolters Kluwer.

Click here to read "Disparities in Postmastectomy Reconstruction Use among American Indian and Alaska Native Women"

Article: "Disparities in Postmastectomy Reconstruction Use among American Indian and Alaska Native Women" (doi: 10.1097/PRS.0000000000010935)

About Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery

For over 75 years, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery® has been the one consistently excellent reference for every specialist who uses plastic surgery techniques or works in conjunction with a plastic surgeon. The official journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery® brings subscribers up-to-the-minute reports on the latest techniques and follow-up for all areas of plastic and reconstructive surgery, including breast reconstruction, experimental studies, maxillofacial reconstruction, hand and microsurgery, burn repair and cosmetic surgery, as well as news on medico-legal issues.

About ASPS

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) is the largest organization of board-certified plastic surgeons in the world. Representing more than 11,000 physician members worldwide, the society is recognized as a leading authority and information source on cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgery. ASPS comprises more than 92 percent of all board-certified plastic surgeons in the United States. Founded in 1931, the society represents physicians certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery or the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.

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