The percentage of women who opt for reconstructive breast surgery has always been smaller than the total number of women undergoing mastectomies. In 1998, fewer than half (46 percent) of women who received mastectomies chose to undergo reconstruction. Yet, a recent study shows that a more encouraging ratio is trending: in 2007, 63 percent of women opted for breast reconstruction. What could account for this impressive increase?
Survival Is Beautiful
One of the main reasons that more women feel invested in the reconstruction process is likely because the prognosis for breast cancer has improved so considerably over the last several years. With more and more women outliving breast cancer by decades or longer, an emphasis has shifted away from simply surviving and more toward ensuring a high quality of life after mastectomy. Survivorship is a status that now implies a long-term designation, and that definition requires a change in perspective.
Additionally, the Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act, which requires coverage for reconstructive surgery from any insurance company that pays for mastectomies, was signed into law in 1998. This mandate helped put reconstructive procedures suddenly within the financial reach for many women who might not have otherwise been able to afford the costs related to additional surgeries.
Along with an improvement in medical treatments and reconstruction techniques has come greater awareness of women’s rights and choices when it comes to breast cancer. Although the WHCRA has been in effect for close to two decades, not all women are aware of its existence. As educational efforts continue to expand, more women are choosing to exercise their right to comprehensive breast cancer treatment that includes reconstruction.