A breast reconstruction aims to rebuild your breast, either wholly or partially to match your normal breast in both shape and size. For many women breast reconstruction also helps restore confidence in body image and self-esteem and assists in the psychological and emotional recovery following breast cancer.
Australia has low rates of breast reconstruction compared with other first world countries.
This is despite research and clinical evidence that shows that women can benefit both physically and emotionally from a reconstruction.
BRA (Breast Reconstruction Awareness) Day was founded in Canada in 2011 to highlight low reconstruction rates. The Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) launched BRA Day Australia in 2013 to raise awareness about breast reconstruction so all women, no matter where they live, have the same access to information.
BRA Day is not about trying to talk people into having a reconstruction; but simply to ensure all women and their doctors to have a conversation about breast reconstruction so women undergoing a mastectomy are aware of their options.
Did you know:
Reconstruction is an option that may enhance your quality of life post cancer treatment – both physically and with regard to self-esteem and confidence.
Reconstruction is available and refundable by Medicare.
There is more than one kind of reconstruction option available. Talk to your surgeon about what might work for you.
In some cases a reconstruction can be done at the same time as the mastectomy, which means the breast surgeon and plastic surgeon can work together to achieve an optimal result. It also reduces the number of times a woman has to be under anaesthetic.
BRA Day is an initiative designed to promote education, awareness and access for women who may wish to consider a post-mastectomy breast reconstruction. In particular BRA Day Australia is focusing on highlighting the significant disparity between capital cities and regional/remote areas in terms of access to information as well as access to multi-disciplinary treatment teams at all stages of cancer diagnosis and management.
BRA Day was launched in Canada in 2011 by Toronto-based plastic surgeon Dr Mitchell Brown, and was introduced to Australia on Tuesday 26th November 2013 by the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons.
While there is research showing there can be physical and emotional benefits for women who have a reconstruction, only around 10% of Australian women who’ve had a mastectomy go on to have a reconstruction.
Australia’s inaugural BRA Day aims to inform women about their options after mastectomy and that in some cases, a breast reconstruction can be performed at the same time as mastectomy. This involves several different specialities working together to achieve the best aesthetic result.
A mastectomy can be a very traumatic and personal experience for some women, which can lead to a sense of ‘body mutilation’ and sometimes depression. A breast reconstruction is just one of many ways for women to restore confidence after breast cancer.
A mastectomy involves the removal of one or both breasts, so after the procedure you have the choice – to live without breasts or to have a breast reconstruction.
Breast reconstruction is a surgical procedure that rebuilds a new breast or breasts to resemble a natural breast in appearance and form.
Technology today is better than ever before and the results of breast reconstruction can be very natural and life-like. In some cases your Specialist Plastic Surgeon can use your original skin and nipple to reconstruct your breast as close to the way it was as possible.
A reconstructed breast however will not have the same sensation and feel as the breast it replaces and visible incision lines will always be present on the breast, whether from reconstruction or mastectomy.
Breast reconstruction is a highly individual procedure and may not be suitable for everyone. Always talk to your Specialist Plastic Surgeon before making a decision – they will assess your condition and general health, and plan the treatment that is best suited for you.
Before you decide on breast reconstruction, there are some important issues to keep in mind:
The Breast Device Registry is a free, opt-out registry that collects valuable patient, surgeon, procedural and device data on both aesthetic and reconstructive breast procedures. Talk to your Specialist Plastic Surgeon about how to make sure your details are on the Breast Device Registry.
Breast reconstruction is usually performed after a mastectomy – sometimes immediately and sometimes much later. In some cases you can undergo your breast removal surgery and breast reconstruction surgery in the same operation. This involves a highly skilled and multi-disciplinary team working together.
Your breast clinic or breast cancer support group will recommend surgeons for your breast reconstruction surgery. The Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons can also help you find an excellent and experienced surgeon in your area.
A breast reconstruction can be of no cost to you if you use public facilities as it is covered by Medicare. With the public sector, you may be put on an extensive waiting list and you won’t be able to choose your Specialist Plastic Surgeon.
If you have the procedure privately prices can vary widely between Specialist Plastic Surgeons. Some factors that may influence the cost include the surgeon’s experience, the type of procedure used and the geographic location of the office.
Breast reconstruction is generally considered a reconstructive procedure and may be covered by private health insurance, however policies between different providers may vary greatly – you may not be completely covered.
In a private hospital, Medicare will cover some of the surgeon’s and anaesthetist’s fees and your health fund will cover some or all of the remaining costs. You may need to pay your specialists gap fee or a hospital admission fee.
Undergoing a breast reconstruction at the same time as mastectomy will give the best aesthetic results as there will be numerous highly skilled specialists working collaboratively on your procedure. It also avoids having multiple surgical procedures and the stress of returning to the hospital for a second major operation.
Breast reconstruction surgery requires a short hospital stay, generally of between two and five days, depending on your particular case.
Rest and recover. You will need to have someone stay with you for at least 24 hours after your breast reconstruction surgery, and make sure a friend or family member is able to drive you home from the hospital after your stay.
It is normal to feel tired and sore after your surgery. Generally it is advised not to swim, play sports, exercise or do any heavy lifting for at least two weeks after your surgery. There is no set rule when it comes to your recovery time. Your Specialist Plastic Surgeon will prepare detailed instructions on post-operative care – make sure you follow these carefully.
During your recovery period you will not be able to perform physical activities. If you are generally fit and healthy, and have good postural and core strength, you may experience a quicker recovery period than expected. However once you have fully recovered you will be able to resume all your normal physical activities.
Your Specialist Plastic Surgeon will work to the best of their ability to recreate a breast as close in size and shape to your original. A breast lift, augmentation or reduction may be suitable in some cases for the opposite breast, to improve symmetry of the size and position of both breasts.
Scars are an inevitable part of any invasive surgery. Your Specialist Plastic Surgeon will endeavour to minimise scarring and keep your scars as inconspicuous as possible by locating the incisions in easily hidden sites. That way, scars will be along natural skin lines and creases. Scars may fade with time and become barely noticeable. If you are prone to scarring, you should advise your surgeon.