Women often uninformed about breast reconstruction
Though most women with breast cancer are aware they have the option for breast reconstruction soon after surgery, few may fully understand the details of the procedure, a new study suggests.
This was particularly the case, researchers found, for black women, who were more likely to say they did not know enough about breast reconstruction or to feel that the procedure was not recommended.
In addition, only a minority of women—38 percent—had breast reconstruction immediately or soon after undergoing a mastectomy, according to findings published in the journal Cancer.
This is in line with past studies finding that, although many breast cancer patients can have breast reconstruction at the same time as their mastectomy or soon after, relatively few women make that choice.
Most often, women in the current study said they opted not to have reconstruction because they wanted to avoid more surgery.
But there were also signs that many of the 646 patients were not fully informed about the procedure, according to the study team, led by Dr. Monica Morrow of Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia.
Although 78 percent said they had discussed breast reconstruction with their cancer surgeon or a plastic surgeon, only 11 percent were able to correctly answer three basic questions about the procedure.
For example, three-quarters of the women incorrectly believed that breast reconstruction makes it hard to detect cancer recurrences. This is a “critical factor” in the decision to undergo reconstruction, the authors note.
When the researchers looked at the results based on race, they further found that black women were less likely than white women to give correct answers to the questions on breast reconstruction.
They were also somewhat more likely to say they didn’t know enough about breast reconstruction, or to think that the procedure was not recommended or discouraged by their surgeon.
Exactly why women—and black women in particular—lack knowledge and interest in early breast reconstruction is unclear, according to Morrow’s team. But the findings suggest a need to better inform newly diagnosed women about reconstruction, the researchers write.
Breast reconstruction is not the right choice for all women who undergo mastectomy, however. And no one knows what percentage of mastectomy patients “should” have the procedure, the study authors note.
Experts recommend that women discuss the pros and cons of reconstruction with their doctors before they have a mastectomy.
SOURCE: Cancer, December 1, 2005.
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