Let’s say you’re one of the 227,000 women who’s diagnosed with breast cancer during the next year. You meet with a cancer surgeon who tells you that you’ll likely need a single or double mastectomy. If that’s not frightening enough, your surgeons will not tell 7 out of 10 of you about your options for breast reconstruction. You’ll have one or both your breasts removed and many of you will live with the devastating social, physical and emotional effects that are triggered by mastectomy.
Breast cancer surgeons in only two states—New York and Louisiana—are legally required to inform their patients that they can bring plastic surgeons into the operating room to start the reconstruction process immediately after their breasts are removed. A woman can wake from her surgery, not with a disfigured chest, but with breasts!
Two states! It’s darn hard to believe. But it’s a sad fact. While breast cancer awareness campaigns have blessedly given millions of women knowledge about detecting this potentially fatal disease, “it’s time to close the circle and properly treat hundreds of thousands of women following their mastectomies,” explained Karen Craven, an executive of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
Karen and her team at ASPS and the Plastic Surgery Foundation have worked long and tirelessly the last six months to launch BRA Day (Breast Reconstruction Awareness) in the US, after a successful launch last year in Canada. Over 100 events are planned for today across the country, thanks to ASPS and its sponsoring partners, including MTF, a non-profit organization of medical academic teaching institutions and organ and tissue recovery agencies. The largest tissue bank in the United States, MTF provides prepared skin graphs that can be used surgically to restore patients’ breasts after mastectomy.
I had the pleasure of meeting a group of fabulous men and women from MTS this morning, on the plaza outside The Today Show studio at Rockefeller Center, where we all held signs promoting BRA Day. Karen and I met around 5 am, when the crowd starts to gather for the start of the 7 a.m. show. Not someone to do anything half-baked, she wanted to make sure the placards would show up when the cameras zoomed in on the crowd. They did.
Karen’s passion for the cause can be traced back over three decades, when her aunt, who had a double mastectomy, came to live with her family. “I will never forget my aunt’s distorted body after surgery and chemotherapy. She had two open sores, which she suffered with, mentally and physically, until the day she died.”
I applaud Karen, the ASPS and all the companies who are dedicated to giving breast cancer survivors their bodies back.
Please check out http://www.bradayusa.org/breast-reconstruction.html.
Enough with the marching for breast cancer awareness. That campaign worked. Now it’s time to march and raise money for increasing the quality of life of survivors. Not to mention, for a cure.