ASAP: Immediate Breast Reconstruction After Mastectomy

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Not only are more women opting for immediate breast reconstruction, but more are using implants.

Researchers are somewhat flummoxed by a new bump in breast reconstruction. Not only are more women undergoing immediate breast reconstruction after mastectomy, according to the January issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, but an increasing number are opting for implants, rather than autologous (using the woman’s own tissue) procedures, such as the TRAM flap reconstruction.

Using a national database, the researchers assessed trends in breast reconstruction from 1998-2008. The rate of immediate reconstruction after mastectomy rose steadily each year — from about 21 percent to 38 percent by the end of the study. While the number of autologous breast reconstruction procedures remained relatively unchanged, the rate of reconstructions using implants increased by an average of 11 percent per year.

The rise in reconstructions can perhaps be more easily explained by the fact that more women are opting for double mastectomies to prevent breast cancer, particularly in high-risk cases, according to the article. Awareness and acceptance of the Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act (WHCRA) of 1998, which ensures coverage for breast reconstruction after mastectomy was also cited as a contributing factor.

Discerning the reason behind the preference for implants is somewhat murkier. While the women who underwent double mastectomy were twice as likely to be reconstructed using implants than those with a single-sided mastectomy and women in the West and Midwest were also more likely to opt for immediate implant reconstruction, the authors also call for further research to understand the reasons behind the preference for implants.

Or maybe it’s as simple as this: Most of the approximately 300,000 women who get breast implants each year are satisfied with them. And breast reconstruction with implants after mastectomy is a well-trod, relatively safe and acceptable route to restoring a natural appearance and sense of wholeness. It’s all about getting back to normal, as quickly as possible.

Photo: The determination to rebuild from Jewish Women’s Archive on Flickr

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