BRA Day: Raising awareness about breast reconstruction surgery
Although the number of women opting to undergo breast reconstruction surgery after a mastectomy is increasing, there are still many myths surrounding the procedure, including the belief that women are simply "getting a 'boob job.'"
Marking the third annual Breast Reconstruction Awareness Day, initiative ambassador Theresa Quick said it's important to inform people that reconstructive surgery is not the same as breast augmentation.
"The reality is, when you're talking about reconstruction post-mastectomy, you're building something from nothing," Quick told CTV's Canada AM on Wednesday.
Since the initiative's inception in Toronto in 2011, what’s commonly called "BRA Day" has spread to more than 25 countries.
"It's been an incredibly quick expansion of the awareness and, even in Ontario alone, in the past three years, we've seen an increase in the rates of reconstruction," Dr. Brett Beber told Canada AM.
"More and more women are finding that this is a possibility for them."
BRA Day events are being held Wednesday in 14 locations across Canada. The events will provide information on breast reconstruction surgery: a procedure for women who have had all or some of a breast removed.
Women who have undergone the procedure will also be on hand at BRA events to talk about their post-operation experience. The events will be livestreamed.
Earlier this year, Oscar-winning actress Angelina Jolie announced that she had a preventative double mastectomy after learning she had a gene that dramatically increased her risk of breast cancer.
The revelation, which was announced in an op-ed published in the New York Times was credited for a recent spike in cancer risk screening in British Columbia.
Quick, who underwent a preventative double mastectomy in 2011 and breast reconstructive surgery in 2012, said another myth surrounding the procedure is associated costs.
Breast reconstruction surgery is 100 per cent covered by provincial health care in Canada, however, only one in 10 women undergo the procedure, Quick told Canada AM.
"The leading cause of that, although it's a personal decision, is a lack of awareness and information," she said.
"It's so easy for a woman, once they've gone through a cancer treatment, to get lost in the system: they don't know how to get referred to a plastic surgeon, they don't know what their options are and whether it's paid."
In Canada, breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosis in Canadian women over the age of 20, according to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.
The non-profit group says it is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in Canadian women. One in 9 Canadian women is expected to develop breast cancer during her lifetime.
Dr. Beber, who performed Quick's reconstructive surgery, said there are generally two options for breast reconstruction:
- Reconstruction using implants
- Reconstruction using a woman's own tissue
He said research has shown that the surgery improves a woman's quality of life, as well as improves physical recovery after a mastectomy.
"The benefits are incredibly profound for these women."