According to a new study, fewer women today are choosing to undergo breast reconstruction after a mastectomy, mostly due to insurance reasons, but even if my insurance covered it, I wouldn’t opt for it based on what I have seen.
Revealed at the recent Breast Cancer Symposium in San Antonio, the findings showed that women with an earlier stage of breast cancer were more likely to have breast reconstruction, while those with a more advanced stage were less likely to undergo the surgery. In fact, fewer than one in four women with invasive cancer now opts for reconstruction, while more than one third with early stage cancer chooses the procedure.
Those who choose reconstruction tend to be younger, urban women. Females over 50, along with blacks and rural residents were less likely to undergo the surgery. Not surprising, insurance also plays a big role in who gets reconstruction. Those most likely to get it were covered under their commercial health insurance. The procedure is covered by Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance, although there is sometimes a co-pay which can deter women from doing this. And with the cost of reconstruction tripling over the last decade, this can leave many women without a choice.
But, even if my insurance did cover this, based on watching two close friends undergo this procedure during the last year, it’s not something I would agree to do. True, past studies have shown improved psychological advantages with having breast reconstruction, and this is certainly something that is a very personal for women. Some women say their breasts are very important to them and their sexuality and the way they feel about themselves, and that’s definitely understandable. Other said they feel more empowered and “whole” once their breasts are reconstructed, which is also important. But all of this comes with some pretty big risks.
One friend who underwent a double mastectomy endured months of painful complications before and after her bilateral surgery. She suffered from infections and allergic reactions to the medications and was out of work for three months. Even after the surgery was completed and she was feeling somewhat normal again, she admitted that if she had to do it all over, she would not have chosen the surgery. My other friend, who has two young children, was in and out of the hospital three times after her procedure due to tissue breakdown and then an implant rupture. She had to have a second surgery to replace the ruptured implant, all of which added several weeks to her recovery (something that was really difficult for her while trying to be a mom). In addition, both women had bruising and pain that lasted longer than expected and left them housebound–not to mention self-conscious about the skin surrounding their new breasts.
Maybe it’s because I’m pretty small-busted to begin with, but after facing months or years of breast cancer treatment (which I am watching my mother go through now), I would not choose to extend the amount of time in recovery. Breasts are just not that important to me. But that’s just me. What would you do?