Women should be supported to make an informed choice between the full range of breast reconstruction options. Our new report, Rebuilding my body, reveals breast reconstruction for breast cancer patients is being restricted in some areas of England.
This week we launched our new report, Rebuilding my body: Breast reconstruction in England, reveals breast reconstruction for breast cancer patients is being restricted in some areas of England. Previous research has shown almost half of patients who have breast reconstruction experience regret, and those women are more likely to feel they either made a poor decision or a better result would have been possible had they made a different one.
Our report argues women should be supported to make an informed choice between the full range of breast reconstruction options. They should also receive the support and counselling they need to help them make a decision, as well as access to photos of reconstructed breasts so they have realistic expectations of what breast reconstruction can achieve. Finally, all women should be given the time to choose and the option of delaying their breast reconstruction for as long as they need.
Louise, from Manchester, explained:
I was first diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer in September 2014, aged 34. My surgeon initially explained he wanted to do a lumpectomy, however I considered all my options, including my views of my risk of recurrence, and discussed this with a psychologist. I then decided I’d rather have a mastectomy, which my surgeon agreed to carry out.
I was unsure whether I wanted to have a DIEP or TRAM flap reconstruction, but knew both would involve extensive surgery. I was also sure that I didn't want an implant reconstruction, so I opted to defer the surgery until I'd reached a final resolution in my own mind.
My surgeon was surprised that I was happy to be left flat on one side, but was respectful of my decision and reiterated that it was my choice and that I could go back for the reconstructive surgery in a few months, a few years or whenever I decided to.
I'm still flat on my mastectomy side three years later, and I don't know whether I'll ever have the reconstruction done. Opening old wounds doesn't feel like a natural progression to me. But I'd like to have the option should I choose to.”
What can be done?
We are recommending CCGs provide adequate training to all healthcare professionals involved in discussing breast reconstruction with patients to enable them to support their patients through the breast reconstruction planning process and ensure that women have realistic expectations of what surgery can and cannot achieve.
We also want each Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to adopt new guidelines, which state that women should be able to return for breast reconstruction surgery at any point following their initial treatment.
How can you help?
You can contact your MP now and ask them to write to the local CCG responsible for breast reconstruction services in your area.
A few minutes of your time could help us to ensure that no woman has to go through the pain of having reconstructive surgery that they later come to regret.