Breast Reconstruction After Mastectomy

If you have had or need a mastectomy, you have options.

On the 18th October we celebrate Breast Reconstruction Awareness Day, or, ‘BRA’ Day for short. Although Bra Day is celebrated all over the world, it is specifically important here in Australia as we have a very low rate of breast reconstruction surgeries in comparison to other first world countries. This is despite research identifying that women who have undergone a mastectomy can benefit in many ways from the procedure.

Why are there not more women who choose breast reconstruction?

According to a recent study, many women who need a mastectomy state that if offered the choice, they would undergo a breast reconstruction.
This same study also shows that the main reasons why more breast reconstructions are not performed are:

  • Lack of information
  • Lack of support
  • Associated expenses

Breast reconstruction is refundable by Medicare

Surprisingly, many people do not know that if you have had a mastectomy, your breast reconstruction is completely FREE in the Australian public healthcare system. However, there may be a wait list and you are unable to pick your surgeon.

Know Your Surgeon

If a woman decides to undergo breast reconstruction surgery, it is likely that the surgery will be performed by a specialist plastic surgeon.
At the Royal Hospital for Women, Dr Pouria Moradi and his colleagues perform breast reconstruction to help women “reclaim their curves”. All the plastic surgeons are experienced in microsurgical breast reconstruction and like all qualified plastic surgeons throughout the country, have had a minimum of 12 years medical and surgical education, with at least 5 years specialist postgraduate training.

Know Your Options

The first thing to consider, is that not all hospitals will be able to provide every type of breast reconstruction. Another consideration is that different surgeons may have different surgical techniques. If you are unsure about the surgery, you can always seek a second opinion.

Generally, there are two main techniques used in a breast reconstruction:

Implant reconstruction – this involves inserting silicone-based implants to replace the existing breasts.

Flap reconstruction – this uses the existing tissue from another part of your body to create a new breast.

In some instances, the nipple can also be spared during your mastectomy. Otherwise, it is also possible to reconstruct your nipple.

If a woman decides to have a breast reconstruction, it can be a very big decision. Some things to consider include:

  • What type of breast reconstruction will suit my lifestyle?
  • What will suit my body?
  • Am I taking any post-op treatment into consideration?

At the end of the day, whether you choose to have implants or tissue transfer is a personal preference. However, other aspects like your age and medical history may also have an impact on the decision.

Waiting Times

The waiting time for delayed breast reconstruction at RHW is around 6 – 12 months. However, if you need immediate reconstruction following your mastectomy, it is done at the same time as the mastectomy.

The wait period of the mastectomy depends on the severity of your cancer, for example if you are having a risk reducing mastectomy then the wait period is 6-12 months but if you have breast cancer at the time, the waiting period is a few weeks.

Support Services

Whether you have recently been diagnosed with breast cancer, are undergoing treatment or are adjusting to a life with your new breasts, it is important to remember you are not alone. There are many other women who have experienced (or are experiencing) the same things as you. If you require more information about mastectomy, breast reconstruction, or would like to talk to someone, we urge you to reach out to the following charities:

Reclaim Your Curves – https://www.reclaimyourcurves.org.au/home.html

Breast Cancer Network Australia – https://www.bcna.org.au/understanding-breast-cancer/

Cancer Council Australia – https://www.cancer.org.au/

It is important to remember that every woman reacts differently to losing a breast and it is normal to feel sad, anxious or uncertain. Getting a breast reconstruction may be an option to help you move forward from your breast cancer so, be sure to explore your options.

Get Involved

In a recent Four Corners episode, a woman expressed how she paid upward of $20,000 for her breast reconstruction surgery. In the words of Dr Moradi, “this infuriated me as she could have had it for free through the public sector”. Since, Dr Moradi has become dedicated to sharing this information across Australia to help ensure that women who have had a mastectomy know that they have options after their surgery.

We would like YOU to help Dr Moradi spread the word about breast reconstruction so that women all over Australia know that they are not alone during this trying time. To get involved, please share this video.

Breast reconstruction after mastectomy, Sydney

At the Royal Hospital for Women and Price of Wales Campus, we are a tertiary referral hospital and can therefore accept any patient from NSW, not just our local area service.

So, please get in touch and we can arrange a consultation for you.