Celebrating National Breast Reconstruction Awareness Day

A new initiative that is helping to raise awareness about breast reconstruction after a lumpectomy or mastectomy was recently celebrated at both Rouge Valley Health System (RVHS) hospital campuses.

National Breast Reconstruction Awareness (BRA) Day, which was celebrated for the first time ever on Oct. 19, is an initiative designed to promote education, awareness and access for women who may wish to consider breast reconstruction after tumor removal for breast cancer. Lumpectomies or mastectomies are procedures in which the breast is partially or fully removed to treat breast cancer.

“The removal of the breast can have a profound impact on a woman’s self-esteem, sexual identity, femininity, and her sense of self. The loss of a breast can be a lifelong reminder of her cancer treatment, which may be traumatic to a patient,” explains Dr. Jon Hummel, program chief, surgery, Rouge Valley Centenary (RVC). “It’s empowering for cancer patients to understand that they have options in their treatment, and that breast reconstruction is a way to close the loop on breast cancer. We want our patients to know that this treatment is available to them, right in their community.”

Recent research confirms that, on average, only one in 10 women who have had a mastectomy, has gone on to receive reconstruction. While the decision to receive reconstructive surgery is an individual choice, the hospital is celebrating this campaign to help raise awareness, and to help inform patients of the options available.

The procedure, which is offered at both RVHS hospital campuses, is done by using a breast implant, or the patient’s own tissue, typically taken from the stomach or the back, helping to restore the breast to a near normal shape, appearance and size following a mastectomy. If a lumpectomy was done to treat the cancer, the patient’s remaining breast tissue may be rearranged to reconstruct the whole breast.

It is important for patients and health care providers to know that all breast reconstruction procedures, no matter what type of reconstruction is chosen are covered under the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP). Regardless of technique, breast reconstruction may be done at the time of the lumpectomy or mastectomy, or it can be delayed for months or even years later.

A patient’s story –
Having her breast reconstructed after her mastectomy has given 57-year-old Scarborough resident and grandmother Winsome Elliott a fresh start after battling breast cancer.

Last year, a mammogram and subsequent ultrasound and biopsy revealed a cancerous tumor in her left breast. When a lumpectomy was done in January at Rouge Valley Centenary, a procedure in which breast tissue containing the tumor is removed to conserve the breast, more tumors were discovered. Winsome’s physician, RVC surgeon Dr. Arvind Nanda, advised her of the need to do a mastectomy. He also discussed the option of also having breast reconstruction surgery to the left breast, and a breast reduction on the right breast so that both breasts would be of similar size and shape. Working with plastic surgeons, the procedures could be done all at the same time.

Winsome’s surgery, which took place in February under the care of Dr. Nanda, and plastic surgeons Dr. Jayson Dool, Dr. Marietta Zorn, Dr. Collin Hong, was successful. She has since completed chemotherapy, and looks forward to the future ahead of her.

“From the beginning, we discussed the option of having the breast reconstruction. My doctors sat down with me and described from A to Z what was going to happen. I felt very comfortable with my decision, and I knew I was in good hands,” explains Winsome.

Breast care services offered at RVHS –
Under the care of the RVHS team of surgical oncologists, plastic surgeons, radiation and medical oncologists, patients can receive state-of-the-art breast care, while remaining at their local community hospital close to family, friends and other support systems as they journey through their cancer care.

RVHS offers a full-range of breast care services at both hospital campuses. This ranges from simple screening mammograms, through to more advanced breast imaging techniques, including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and on to oncologic services such as tumor removal, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy consultation.

Both hospital campuses are also designated Ontario Breast Screening Program (OBSP) locations, allowing patients seeking a digital mammography to do so on a walk-in basis, no longer requiring a requisition. This makes Rouge Valley’s service much more accessible to patients.

With the celebration of BRA Day, RVHS is pleased to inform patients and healthcare providers that another component of cancer care, breast reconstruction, is available to women of the RVHS community.

For more information visit: www.bra-day.com.