Our new policy report, Rebuilding my body, has revealed breast reconstruction for breast cancer patients is being restricted in some areas of England.
What’s the problem?
We’ve found worrying new evidence that patients’ access to breast reconstruction surgery is being restricted by some local health bodies.
For patients who choose it, breast reconstruction can be an essential part of their recovery, helping them to rebuild their body image, self-esteem and sexuality after breast cancer. That’s why it’s vital all women have access to this surgery, without unnecessary restrictions, regardless of where they live.
In some areas, patients are told their breast reconstruction must be completed in a limited number of surgeries. In others, women are being denied balancing surgery on their unaffected breast. Some local health bodies are also placing time limits on when breast reconstruction surgery must be completed, rushing women into difficult decisions without providing them with the support they need to make an informed choice.
Read our report Rebuilding my body (opens as PDF)
We are very concerned by these findings, which come a few months after we highlighted other unwarranted regional variations in breast cancer services.
We are pleased to announce that Barking and Dagenham, Havering and Redbridge CCGs have clarified that their original response to our Freedom of Information request was incorrect, and patients in those CCGs are not experiencing restrictions in breast reconstruction.
We want each Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to adopt new guidelines, which will ensure all breast cancer patients are supported to access the breast reconstruction they need at a time that is appropriate for them.
The new guidelines for CGGs (opens as PDF) launched by Breast Cancer Now, the Association of Breast Surgery (ABS) and the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS) include that:
- All patients should be able to choose to return for breast reconstruction surgery at any point following their diagnosis and initial treatment
- A full range of symmetry and adjustment procedures should be available, including surgery on the unaffected breast
- Clear communication is needed between surgeons and their patients in treatment planning to ensure patients have realistic expectations of what reconstruction can achieve
Read the guidelines for CGGs (opens as PDF)
We also want the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, to order a systematic review of breast reconstruction surgery, so we can get a better picture of what’s happening and identify any other areas of the country where there are unnecessary restrictions.
How can you help?
If breast reconstruction surgery is being restricted in your area, we need you to send your local MP an email, asking them to contact your CCG and ask them to review their policy so that women can access the breast reconstruction surgery they need.
If there isn’t a problem in your area, we’d like to you to add your name to our letter to Matt Hancock, asking him to order the review of breast reconstruction surgery in England. Like a petition, we need as many names as possible – something we can only do with your help.
Find out what’s going on in your area and take action
A few minutes of your time could help us to ensure that no woman has to go through the anguish of being rushed into making life changing decisions or being denied this important surgery.