Breast reconstruction is more popular in some states than others

Breast reconstruction is more popular in some states than others

Since silicone-gel breast implants received FDA-approval, more and more women are opting for breast implant surgery. For some women it's a simple matter of enhancing their appearance, but for those who have undergone mastectomy because of breast cancer, breast reconstruction may be critical in restoring physical, mental and social well-being.

In 1998, the Women's Health and Cancer Rights Act was passed, legislating that health insurers who reimburse for mastectomy coverage must also reimburse for breast reconstruction. Web MD reports on a recent study published in The Journal of Clinical Oncology, indicating a twenty percent jump in reconstructive breast surgeries (following mastectomy) between 1998 and 2007. The rate of double mastectomies increased from 3 percent to 18 percent during the same period. (Double mastectomies are undergone electively by high-risk women who have had cancer diagnosed in one breast). It is notable that three-quarters of the women who underwent double mastectomy also underwent breast reconstruction.

A Manhattan breast reconstruction surgeon thinks double mastectomy rates have risen because advances in reconstructive techniques make women more confident that they will look good after mastectomy. There is increased access to information and Angelina Jolie's publicizing of her own double mastectomy has led to more open discussion.

In spite of the 1998 law and the increased popularity of this surgery, the availability of breast reconstruction surgery varies from state to state. For example, only 18 percent of breast cancer patients opted for reconstructive surgery in North Dakota compared with 80 percent of women in Washington, D.C. This is likely because of limited access to breast reconstruction surgery in North Dakota.

The recent study highlights positive and negative factors. On the positive side, breast reconstruction options are numerous and improving so much that results may make a woman feel normal, both in and out of clothes. On the negative side, there are women who are not undergoing reconstruction because it is not available in their state or because they are not being referred to a reconstructive surgeon. Further, even though the law mandates reimbursement, the bottom number of the reimbursement may have decreased in some states.

The important take-away is that if you have undergone mastectomy, make sure you are referred to a plastic surgeon who specializes in breast reconstruction so that you can consider all available options. You can find more information by selecting "Breast Reconstruction" in the "Procedures" section of Smart Beauty Guide.