By Dr. Pablo Prichard | Point of View
According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, despite health insurance providers being legally required to cover the costs, less than half of all women who required a mastectomy in 2017 were offered breast reconstructive surgery, and fewer than 20% of patients opted for immediate reconstruction.
This could be due, in part, to healthcare clinicians not informing patients on what options are available. When preparing for a noticeably altering procedure like a mastectomy, there is no one better to ease nerves and dispel uncertainty than a reconstructive professional like a plastic surgeon.
Below are reasons why a plastic surgeon should be a key player on your breast cancer recovery team.
- Attaining Goals: A plastic surgeon is a valuable asset no matter where you are in your recovery journey, but working with a surgeon starting at diagnosis is ideal for breast reconstruction. Before any tissue is removed, a patient can get more information from their plastic surgeon about how much can be salvaged, the end goal of the reconstruction, and the expectations a patient needs to have regarding their appearance post-surgery. If a consultation with a plastic surgeon is set after the mastectomy, then options for reconstruction may have been significantly lowered due to the way the procedure was performed as well as contraction of the tissue after mastectomy.
- Exploring All Options: A surgeon can dispel misconceptions when doing a consult for this process — patients are not always limited to silicone or saline implants. Restoring the chest’s appearance can be done through a variety of means, including transposing one’s own body fat for reconstruction. Some eligible breast cancer patients can retain their nipples with minimal risk of cancer recurring in the body, and even newer techniques can allow for nerve grafts to bring back some sensation to the nipple after mastectomy, even though mastectomy surgery cuts the nerves to the nipple.
- Minimize Scarring: Plastic surgeons are experts in subtlety. If noticeable scarring is a concern after a mastectomy, your surgeon can provide a realistic expectation for how you will look after the procedure, and can work with your mastectomy surgeon to obscure scars in a creative manner. Careful planning of the placement of the incisions by the plastic surgeon before the surgery can have a dramatic difference on the visibility of the scars.
For more information about options available to you for breast reconstruction, and to explore possibilities for looking and feeling your best, please visit me here.
Editor’s note: Dr. Prichard, MD, aka Dr. Scottsdale, has been the chief of plastic surgery at Honor Health/John C. Lincoln Hospital for 14 years, medical director for plastic surgery and is senior partner at Advanced Aesthetics Associates. Dr. Prichard has served more than 2,000 patients every year and has specialized in both reconstructive and cosmetic procedures.