As a board-certified plastic surgeon in Hudson County, who regularly works with breast cancer survivors, I strongly urge support of October as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month by reminding the women you love to schedule regular cancer screenings.
Early detection through self-examination and medical screening are key prevention methods. For our Liberty Medical patients and the estimated 211,000 other women that will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, advancements in treatment therapies including lumpectomies and skin-sparing mastectomies, which provide better long-term cosmetic results, as well as break-through legislation, have helped make such devastating news easier to bear.
Improvements in post-surgical therapies, including several breast reconstruction options, are helping allay the fear of disfigurement from mastectomy. Typically, plastic surgeons make recommendations based upon patients' age, health, anatomy, tissues and goals. The most common procedures include skin expansion followed by the use of implants, or flap reconstruction.
Equally important to breast cancer survivors is the 1998 passage of the Women's Health and Cancer Rights Act (WHCRA) that mandates insurance coverage for breast reconstruction following a mastectomy. Board-certified plastic surgeons, such as myself, know first-hand how breast reconstruction improves a survivor's self-esteem and confidence after a mastectomy.
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) was a major supporter of the WHCRA, and is proud to have been part of the effort to stop insurance denials for this important surgery. Now almost every woman who loses her breast to cancer has the option to have it rebuilt through reconstructive surgery. Discussion about this can start immediately after diagnosis. Breast reconstruction procedures increased nearly 150 percent between 1992 and 2002, with 73,026 women choosing the surgery in 2002.
My fellow members of ASPS and I are well aware of the devastating effects of breast cancer. We support all women in their fight against the disease. For all breast cancer patients who require a mastectomy, I suggest the following: talk to a board-certified plastic surgeon regarding reconstruction options and discuss the pros and cons and realistic expectations of those options. For more information contact my office at 201-795-9155 or log on to the ASPS Website at www.plasticsurgery.org.
Sanjay Lalla, MD
Member, American Society of Plastic Surgeons