Reconstruction Offers Options After Mastectomy Reports American Society of Plastic Surgeons

For Immediate Release: September 25, 2002

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – Last year, more than 190,000 women were diagnosed with breast cancer. Because breast cancer is 90 percent curable when caught early, women need to know how important it is to perform regular breast self- exams.

“This is not just a reminder for women over the age of 40,” says Rachelle Gregg, who was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 23 years old.

In November of 2000 all Gregg had on her mind was planning her wedding just four months away, when she found a lump on her left breast – an aggressive tumor. Luckily for Gregg and women like her, advances in breast cancer treatments including breast reconstruction have returned them to healthy lives and hopeful futures.

Like Gregg, 33-year-old Kathy Calkins-Alioto was devastated to learn that a lump on her right breast was cancerous and her treatment required a mastectomy. Alioto knew that breast reconstruction, the recreation of the breast, was a big decision, but one she was comfortable making due to her young age, active life and love of the outdoors.

“Losing a breast can be devastating, both physically and emotionally,” reports American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) President Edward Luce, MD, Cleveland. “Luckily for my patients Rachelle and Kathy and others like them, breast cancer treatment is holistic with multi-disciplinary teams working together to give patients the best options available. This approach includes information about reconstruction options after mastectomy.”

Both Gregg and Calkins-Alioto found solace and satisfaction in the knowledge that their breasts could be rebuilt. Most women who have mastectomies are candidates for breast reconstruction. In fact, more than 81,000 women had breast reconstruction last year, an increase of 174 percent in the last decade. This increase was due in part to the passage of the Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act of 1998. The law, supported by the ASPS, mandates insurance coverage for breast reconstruction and the alteration of the opposite breast for symmetry for women who have undergone mastectomy.

For patients whose treatment includes either partial or full mastectomy, knowing the facts about breast reconstruction will help diminish some of their fears and lead them to an informed decision.

“Discussion about breast reconstruction can start immediately after diagnosis,” explains Dr. Luce. “Managing patient expectations is one of the most important aspects of this process. Women should be aware that the goal of reconstruction is improvement not perfection and patients should candidly discuss expectations with their plastic surgeon.”

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons is the largest organization of board-certified plastic surgeons in the world. With more than 6,000 members, the society is recognized as a leading authority and information source on cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgery. ASPS comprises 94 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.