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Breast reconstruction is a missed opportunity for many women who undergo mastectomies, said Dr. Richard Cashio, a plastic surgeon at Florida Hospital Flagler in Palm Coast. Cashio supports a new education program by the federal government to let women know their options. He spoke about the issue in a recent interview with the Fitness & Well-being Spotlight from News-Journalonline.com.
What is the issue?
In 1998, a federal law was passed requiring insurance companies that covered mastectomies to also pay for reconstruction for the breast and the non-affected breast as well, especially if we needed to do something for symmetry of the breasts. Unfortunately less than 1 in 5 women actually choose to undergo reconstruction after a mastectomy.
Why is this the case?
It’s hard to narrow that down. The two main reasons postulated in the bill is either the patient was not informed or they were not referred to a reconstructive surgeon. It seems to be more prevalent in minority women who are not opting for breast reconstruction. This is based on a 2009 study by the University of Michigan.
What new law was passed to address the situation?
It starts an education program by the secretary of Health and Human Services to inform breast cancer patients about availability and coverage of breast reconstruction. They are trying to directly approach the patients and let them know their options. Obviously, this is a very personal choice for women. Some elect not to undergo breast reconstruction for their own reasons. It’s not an easy thing to undergo. Often times, more than one surgery is required for the breast reconstruction. It can take many months for completion. So it’s quite an undertaking. There are many women who choose not to have reconstruction, but the purpose of this act is to put the power in the hands of the women so they can actually make that decision.
Is there a time limit for completing the procedure?
You don’t have to do your breast reconstruction at the time of the breast cancer treatment. Insurance is required to cover breast reconstruction at any point in the future. So they can have their reconstruction 10 years down the road. Their insurance is still obligated to cover the reconstruction. A long wait for reconstruction happens very commonly in women who had advanced breast cancer and who needed chemotherapy and radiation. I have had some women wait five years out. If you have made it five years without a recurrence of cancer, your chance of another recurrence is low.
Fitness & Well-being Spotlight is a weekly feature profiling area residents who have made healthy habits a priority in their lives, or those dedicated to helping others make healthy lifestyle changes.
For Further Information
More on the markets for breast reconstruction in the U.S. can be found in the report published by iData entitled U.S. Soft Tissue Reinforcement and Regeneration Market, covers the U.S. market segments for hernia repair, dural repair, vaginal slings, skin repair, sports medicine and tendon reinforcement, and dental soft tissue regeneration.