Women diagnosed with breast cancer face many difficult decisions about their care, including ones that may affect their quality of life after treatment. If mastectomy is part of their treatment plan, a majority of women consider breast reconstruction as a way to restore anatomy and symmetry, either with artificial implants or by using their own tissue. Some who choose lumpectomy may also think about improving their cosmetic result with breast reconstruction.
According to Memorial Sloan Kettering plastic and reconstructive surgeon Andrea Pusic, “breast reconstruction can help mitigate the psychological, social, sexual, and physical impact of treatment, improve concerns about body image, and enhance a woman’s long-term quality of life.”
However, there are a number of state-of-the-art techniques as well as personal preferences to consider when making the decision to have breast reconstruction. Additionally, timing and coordination with cancer treatment is crucial.
“It is vital to be fully informed about the pros and cons of the different methods and have realistic expectations about what reconstruction can achieve for you,” Dr. Pusic says. “Knowing what to expect goes a long way in decreasing anxiety and making you feel comfortable with your choices.”
To that end, Dr. Pusic developed a research tool called the BREAST-Q© to measure patient satisfaction with surgical outcomes and quality of life after breast reconstruction. Now used in clinical practice throughout the United States and internationally, the questionnaire is designed to capture patients’ perspectives on the most important aspects of their experience before and after the reconstruction process.
Thousands of women continue to provide long-term feedback for the BREAST-Q years into their survivorship. “Most women considering breast reconstruction want to know what others in their situation have said works and doesn’t work, and the BREAST-Q has been invaluable in helping patients get a better understanding and appreciation for what to expect,” says Dr. Pusic.
Webinar with Dr. Pusic
Learn more about breast reconstruction in this recording of a live webinar that was hosted by the online cancer community CancerConnect on Wednesday, July 16, 2014. Dr. Pusic provides an overview of breast reconstruction options, the factors involved in determining the ideal surgical approach, and how patient satisfaction with outcomes is being improved.