Emotional Healing through Breast Reconstruction

Patient undergoes plastic surgery

Modern medicine is a wonderful thing. More and more, women who are diagnosed with breast cancer become cancer survivors. Many times that means they can lose part of a breast, the whole breast, or even both breasts.  The psychological effects of that are not insignificant.  Breast reconstructive surgery has been proven to help aid in the emotional trauma that comes with losing breast tissue.

“After a mastectomy, breast reconstruction restores form,” said Air Force Maj. Justin Fox, a plastic surgeon at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. “There are several studies that say this helps in psychosocial and sexual well-being, all of which are part of any cancer treatment. It’s not just about the appearance and form, but also the psychological well-being of the patient. I start by telling patients that even if they have just a portion of the breast tissue removed, the plastic surgeon can play a role,” Fox said.  (1)

A study done by the University of Michigan stated that breast reconstruction after a mastectomy can have significant psychological and emotional benifits for breast cancer patients. Writing in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Dr. Edwin Wilkins of the University of Michigan and colleagues also determined that women who had immediate reconstruction at the time of their mastectomy had more of a psychological boost than those who waited to have the procedure until a later date. (2)

They did add that the timing of the reconstructive surgery played a key role in their emotional recovery. However they did state that even the patients who waited to have their reconstruction done did also receive an emotional upswing after the surgery, although not as great as the women who opted to have theirs done within the same time frame as their mastectomy.

Scars from surgery breast

Emotional and psychological benefits happened regardless of the type of reconstructive surgery they had done.  “The true objective for the reconstruction should be to produce the quality of life benefits that matter most to the patient,” Wilkins said. “And simply having a breast reconstruction, rather than the specific type of surgery, is what mattered most.”

Another benefit to having your reconstruction done at the time of the mastectomy is  the breast skin may be able to be preserved, which can produce better-looking results, according to the American Cancer Society.

“The breasts are a part of the normal female anatomy and often times when they are removed, women have a severe sense of loss or feeling that they are not whole,” says Dr. Samina Wahhab of Allentown, who is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and is a member of The American Society of Plastic Surgeons. “Reconstruction significantly reduces this feeling of loss and begins the positive journey toward psychological healing and recovery.” (3)

women with breast cancer awareness ribbon

Breast reconstruction surgery after a mastectomy is covered by insurance plans that offer mastectomy coverage, as mandated by the Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act. The coverage must include reconstruction, breast prostheses and treatment of all physical complications, according to NCI. The act does not apply to Medicare and Medicaid and may be exempt from some health plans. Be sure to check yours before your consultation.

When a woman loses a breast to cancer it can have a damaging psychological effect.  Breastcaresite.com has a wonderful article on THE STAGES OF GRIEF AFTER LOSING A BREAST

If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer please contact Ortega Plastic Surgery for a consultation on breast reconstruction. Dr’s Ted and Marco Ortega are Board Certified plastic surgeons and the practice has been operating since 1974. They will listen to you and help you decide a path for your recovery, both physical and emotional.

Source(s) 1: https://health.mil/News/Articles/2017/10/30/Breast-reconstruction-can-aid-psychological-healing