Help us take action. Our new report, Rebuilding my body, found worrying new evidence of local health bodies called Clinical Commissioning Groups restricting patients’ access to breast reconstruction surgery.
47 Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) in England (22.6%) have a formal policy in place, either limiting the number of surgeries a patient can have to complete breast reconstruction, the time in which breast reconstruction must be complete, or denying access to balancing surgery on the unaffected breast.
While the majority of patients choose not to have breast reconstruction surgery, for those who do it can be an essential milestone in their recovery process. When breast reconstruction is done well and patients are given the time to choose what’s right for them, many women are able to regain a sense of normality in their lives. Read more about what women told us about the psychological importance of breast reconstruction.
However, the report found that restrictions to breast reconstruction surgery can have a long term impact on the mental wellbeing of breast cancer patients; for example, patients who are left with a negative body image may go on to avoid intimate situations or wearing certain clothes.
In response to our survey of patients who have had surgery for breast cancer in the last five years, one woman from the West Midlands told us:
I hate the way I look. I have no self confidence in my body… I feel that I would disgust someone once I am naked.’
Another patient from the South East said:
I feel I can't draw a line under it all and move on and I also don't like to look at myself with things being unfinished.’
Anna, from Oxfordshire, explained:
[My surgeon] thought the difference between my breasts wasn’t significant enough to warrant doing anything. The difference wasn’t minimal to me; half of my breast had been removed- the smaller one- along with my nipple.
I feel my mental health has been affected, and this should have been taken into consideration. My surgeon wasn’t willing to consider what it meant to me, and didn’t offer me any further support.”
What can be done?
Breast Cancer Now believes it is vital that all women are able to access to the full range of breast reconstruction options, without unnecessary time restrictions, regardless of where they live. All women should be provided with the support they need to make an informed choice.
We want each Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to adopt new guidelines, which will ensure all healthcare professionals are making consistent decisions and all breast cancer patients are supported to access the breast reconstruction they need at a time that is appropriate for them.
How can you help?
Contact your MP now and ask them to write to the local bodies 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 anguish of being rushed into making life changing decisions or being denied this important surgery.