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Breast Reconstructive Surgeries Increase, Study Reports

Update Date: Feb 19, 2014 10:05 AM EST

According to a new study, more breast cancer survivors are opting for reconstructive breast surgery. The researchers reported that even though this procedure is becoming more popular within the United States, where the women are from geographically greatly affects their decision-making process as well as access to the procedure.

The research team headed by Dr. Reshma Jagsi, associate chairwoman of the department of radiation oncology at the University of Michigan examined medical data compiled from 1998 through to 2007. The data was available after the Women's Health and Cancer Rights Act of 1998 was passed, which mandated health insurance companies to provide coverage on all stages of breast cancer reconstructive surgery if they already offer coverage on mastectomies. A mastectomy is a procedure that involves removing a breast as a means of treating the cancer.

The researchers had data on over 20,000 female patients who had a mastectomy. The women had an average age of 51. The team discovered that during the 10-year time frame, reconstructive breast surgeries skyrocketed by almost 20 percent for women who had one breast removed. The breast reconstruction rate was 46 percent in 1998 and rose to 63 percent in 2007. For women who went through double mastectomies, the researchers found that roughly 75 percent of these women underwent breast reconstruction surgeries as well. The team reported that during this time span, the percentage of women who had double mastectomies increased from three percent to 18.

"These data suggest that while a hearteningly increasing proportion of women are receiving breast reconstruction, it's not uniformly the case all across the country," said Jagsi according to WebMD.

The researchers reasoned that women are opting for reconstructive surgery due to insurance coverage. However, the researchers did find huge discrepancies in breast reconstructive surgery rates across the U.S. For example, in North Dakota, only 18 percent of women opted for reconstructive surgery whereas in Washington, D.C, 80 percent of women did. The researchers concluded that depending on the location, women might not have access to or are not referred to good reconstructive surgeons.

"A study like this highlights one major thing -- that options for women undergoing mastectomy are numerous," Dr. Oren Lerman, director of breast reconstruction at the Institute for Comprehensive Breast Care at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City said. "Some of these reconstructive methods are really advanced to the point that it will make a woman look and feel normal, not just when she's wearing clothing but even when she's not. That really reassures women who are facing mastectomy."

The findings were published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

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