Most Women Did Not Opt for Breast Reconstruction

Breast reconstruction following a mastectomy was less common in black women and those with less education

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) After a mastectomy, some women choose to have breast reconstruction surgery. Recent research examined the factors that may affect that decision.

In some cases, breast cancer results in a mastectomy — the removal of all or part of one or both breasts, usually to remove breast cancer tumors. Some, but not most, women chose to have breast reconstruction surgery following a mastectomy, according to a recent study.

"Discuss the risks and benefits of breast reconstruction with a plastic surgeon."

The study was written by Monica Morrow, MD, of the Department of Surgery at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, and colleagues.

Although many insurers cover breast reconstruction following a mastectomy, most women do not get the surgery.

The study authors wanted to find out why.

Using health care data from Los Angeles and Detroit, the researchers identified 485 patients who had a mastectomy and were cancer-free four years later.

Of the 485 participants, 24.8 percent had immediate breast reconstruction and 16.8 percent had delayed reconstruction.

Less than half of the patients who had a mastectomy (41.6 percent) went on to get breast reconstruction.

Based on survey results, 48.5 percent of women reported not getting reconstruction to avoid more surgery, and 33.8 percent reported that reconstruction was not important to them.

Other reasons for not getting reconstruction were a fear of breast implants (23.9 percent of patients) and concern about reconstruction interfering with future cancer screening.

Demographic factors associated with not getting reconstruction surgery were being black, having less education, being older and having another serious illness.

“Our study suggests that room exists for improved education regarding the safety of breast implants and the effect of reconstruction on follow-up [cancer] surveillance,” the study authors wrote.

The study was published online Aug. 20 in JAMA Surgery.

The National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society and the California Department of Public Health funded the study. The authors did not disclose any conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
August 19, 2014
Last Updated:
August 21, 2014