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Breast reconstruction has been demonstrated to have a positive impact in many facets of a woman’s life. Specifically, improved confidence, self-image, sexual relationships, body acceptance and even success in the workplace are evident in women who have undergone reconstruction. Despite this, less than 15% of Canadian women undergo reconstruction following breast cancer; this is one of the lowest rates in developed countries. While there are many contributing factors, information about reconstruction and access to reconstruction are two areas that are clearly modifiable. As a new Regional Breast Community of Practice priority, we are striving to improve on these factors for both immediate and delayed reconstruction.
Immediate reconstruction occurs at the same time as the surgical oncologist addresses the breast cancer in the operating room. These procedures involve working as a surgical team to allow women to initiate their reconstruction right at the time of their mastectomy. Alternatively, in delayed reconstruction, women undergo surgical management of their cancer, as well as any adjuvant therapies, and then have reconstruction at a later date. Unfortunately there are significant wait times for patients seeking delayed reconstruction due to limited resources, insufficient surgeons providing reconstruction, and priority being placed on patients who have active cancer or who are at high risk.
The breast reconstruction initiative will strive to improve information about breast reconstruction to all practitioners involved in breast cancer care. Specifically we aim to educate referring physicians about the options for breast reconstruction and the availability of various reconstructive methods within our region. We also aim to improve access to reconstruction and to shorten our wait lists for this important aspect in the care of women with breast cancer.
Article written by: Dr. Kirsty Usher Boyd