For women without health insurance: yes, cost is a HUGE concern, and an obvious barrier to reconstruction. But for those with health insurance, cost shouldn’t be an issue.
•You don’t have to make up your mind right now. Reconstruction can be done months, or even years, after your mastectomy. Many women opt to “get it all over with at once.” But if you’re feeling pressured, and need more time to consider all your options, it’s OK to just go for the mastectomy, knowing that you can still explore reconstruction down the road.
•There are two basic types of reconstruction: implants (either silicone or saline), and autologous reconstruction, which uses tissue from your own body to construct a new breast. Each type has its pros and cons. As with so many decisions around cancer treatment, it’s a tough one – and only you can make it.
•In my opinion, based on what I’ve read on this site, surgeons tend to downplay the pain and discomfort associated with the implant process. Many women have detailed here the severe and unrelenting pain they go through during the several-month expansion process leading up to their final implant surgery.
Why the disconnect between the commonly noted side effects of this surgery, and many women’s actual experience?
It could be a case of surgeons trying to sell what they do best. Many more surgeons do implants than the much more complicated body tissue (autologous) reconstruction. If you’re interested in autologous reconstruction, discuss it with a surgeon who’s comfortable with the procedure, rather than one who seldom performs it.
•It’s OK to NOT have reconstruction; the majority of women don’t have it. A prosthesis (breast form, usually silicone) inserted into a special bra can give you your shape back without further surgery.
What’s NOT OK is not knowing and understanding your reconstruction options. If you’re having (or have had) a mastectomy, and never knew you could replace your missing breast with a new, surgically constructed one, ask your surgeon for more information.
And if s/he’s not willing to provide you with the information you need, ask for a second opinion. Or a third. You’re the one making this very personal decision about your body; it behooves you to know as much as you can about your options.
About Bra Day USA. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.bradayusa.org/
Hamel, P. (2007, April 09). Why do so few of us opt for reconstruction? Retrieved from http://www.healthcentral.com/breast-cancer/c/78/8348/opt