More women undergo breast reconstruction after mastectomy

The majority of women who undergo mastectomy for breast cancer go on to get breast reconstruction, according to study results published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

“Breast reconstruction has a big impact on quality of life for breast cancer survivors,” Reshma Jagsi, MD, DPhil, associate professor of radiation oncology at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, stated in a news release. “As we are seeing more women survive breast cancer, we need to focus on long-term survivorship issues and ensuring that women have access to this important part of treatment.”

Using insurance claims data from a large nationwide employment-based database of medical claims, researchers identified 20,506 women who had undergone mastectomy for breast cancer between 1998 and 2007.

Study results showed 63% of patients received reconstruction in 2007, rising from 46% in 1998. However, although overall rates of reconstruction increased, women who received radiation therapy were less likely to get reconstruction, because tissue damage caused by radiation limits the reconstruction options available for these patients.

Researchers found a dramatic variation in reconstruction based on geographic region, from 18% in North Dakota to 80% in Washington, DC, which was associated with the number of plastic surgeons working in each region or state.

They also noted more women are receiving implants instead of opting for autologous reconstruction. Autologous reconstruction may deliver better cosmetic results and higher satisfaction, but it is a time-consuming, demanding operation that requires a longer hospital stay and recovery time.

“Overall, our finding of substantial increases in breast reconstruction over time is good news for women with breast cancer and reflects positively on cancer care in the United States,” Benjamin Smith, MD, associate professor of radiation oncology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, stated in the release. “However, we need to keep working to ensure that all women have access to quality breast cancer care.”

For more information:

Jagsi R. J Clin Oncol. 2014;doi:10.1200/JCO.2013.52.2284.

Disclosure: The researchers have no relevant financial disclosures.

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