Can Women find Confidence After Breast Cancer Surgery?
“Life-changing” and “traumatic” are words many patients use to describe their breast cancer diagnosis. Fortunately, through medical advances, women can often be cured of their cancers, joining a resilient and growing group of breast cancer survivors. They can also explore a variety of procedures to reconstruct their missing breasts, building confidence after a challenging time in their lives.
This is a guest post by Dr. Sean Wright, MD., F.A.C.S., a reconstructive plastic surgeon who trained at Harvard and is now practicing in the Philadelphia area. We’re featuring a variety of guest authors and perspectives on health issues and are delighted to share his piece with you.
Breast reconstruction is the rebuilding of a breast after it has been removed. It involves using tissue from one’s body or prosthetic material to form a natural-looking breast.
There are many ways to approach breast reconstruction and the results and satisfaction will vary from patient to patient. A number of individuals have seen beneficial results: rebuilt confidence and enhanced body image. Scientific study has detected that women feel better, with greater self-esteem and less anxiety and depression, after having breast reconstruction, versus a simple mastectomy without reconstruction (Al-Ghazai, SK. 2000).”
Weighing Your Options
Breast cancer patients and their families sometimes feel powerless and vulnerable, but breast reconstruction can help to regain some degree of control of the outcome.
Consulting with a good plastic surgeon can educate patients about their options. Understanding the patient’s range of choices, and there are many, can help her rediscover a comfort in and satisfaction with her body.
Patients will learn, for example, that the “right” option is not the same for everyone, nor does a lengthy, complicated procedure necessarily produce better results. There are multiple techniques used in breast reconstruction, such as implants versus autologous tissue. Tissue expanders followed by implants is the most common type of breast reconstruction, but the patient and plastic surgeon can discuss which path will yield the best result.
Studies show that patients having immediate reconstruction face less anxiety and depression and have superior self-esteem than those that wait to have reconstruction done (Al-Ghazai, SK. 2000). However, breast reconstruction is not just for those having undergone recent surgeries, and it is never too late to investigate reconstructive choices.
If a woman had a mastectomy in the past but did not have reconstruction, there are still options available to her. She may have had breast-conserving therapy, but is now unhappy with how her breasts look (for example, asymmetry, scarring or contour problems); she can still explore her possibilities by consulting with a plastic surgeon.
Re-Building Your Confidence
Women often have contradictory feelings while seeking reconstructive options. They are unhappy with the outcomes of previous treatments, but are embarrassed about feeling vain. The truth is, however, that while each individual is different, plastic surgeons perform reconstructive surgery on a regular basis. Additionally, while initially it may be embarrassing or stressful for the patient to face her desire for reconstruction, the right plastic surgeon will put her at ease and the results will likely enhance the patient’s confidence and body image.
Often women can achieve excellent results without traveling far from home. These procedures are almost always covered by insurance, allowing patients to embrace a renewed body image, without adversely impacting finances. And, with the longevity of such a surgery, the investment will yield benefit for many years.
The bottom line is that if a woman is not happy with the way she looks after breast cancer treatment, with or without reconstruction, she should see a plastic and reconstructive surgeon. Exploring her options and going forward with reconstructive procedures can result in significant confidence and body image enhancement. After all, everyone deserves to look and feel her best, every day.
Bio: Dr. Wright earned his Doctor of Medicine degree from Harvard Medical School and went on to receive his plastic surgery training at the Harvard Plastic Surgery program. He is a Certified Diplomate of The American Board of Plastic Surgery, a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, and a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons. He is passionate about empowering people with the information they need to arrive at the best choice for them.