For many women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, a mastectomy is considered an eternal loss of their breasts, but it doesn’t have to be.
Breast reconstruction surgery is an elective procedure that can recreate the appearance of natural breasts, from whatever state a woman’s chest is in after partial or full removal of one or both of her breasts.
This procedure is available through hospitals, but the problem is many women are unaware of this option and how accessible it is.
According to Dr. Robert Shenker, a plastic, cosmetic and reconstructive surgeon at The Cosmetic Surgery C linic in Waterloo, between 10 and 20 per cent of women who have had a cancer-related breast surgery have had reconstructive surgery.
This is a number that Shenker has joined the fight to increase.
“General surgeons … will take a half or a third of a woman’s breast off and say ‘you’ll be fine,’” said Shenker, outlining one of the reasons women aren’t well informed about their options.
“We don’t amputate someone’s leg and let them go, we give them prosthesis. But yet we chop off a woman’s breast and say ‘Goodbye, have a nice life,’” he said.
Shenker has been performing reconstructive surgery for 15 years and said that a low level of awareness isn’t the only problem. While some women may not know about their surgery options, women who know the procedure is available may have a lot of misconceptions about it.
One of the major myths surrounding breast reconstruction is that it costs the same amount of money as a cosmetic procedure, but in fact the process, from start to finish, is completely covered by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan.
The misconceptions don’t end here, they continue on once a woman has made the decision to have reconstruction.
Reconstructive surgery does not need to be put off for even a week after a mastectomy.
“The best way to do it is on the day of your mastectomy. Women think ‘if I could lie down and go to sleep with this breast, it would be great if I could wake up with one,” said Shenker.
The debunking of some of the related misconceptions is one of the reasons Shenker is joining the campaign to raise awareness of breast reconstruction – a campaign that kicked off with some fun on Oct. 12 in uptown Waterloo.
A flash mob of enthusiastic dancers at Waterloo Town Square captured the attention of passersby at approximately 12:15 p.m. While people watched curiously, flyers were handed out for the Breast Reconstruction Awareness Day dinner on the 17th, where Shenker was the guest speaker.