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National BRA Day: Plastic Surgeons Promote Breast Reconstruction

  |   By Elisabeth Dale

This October 17th marks the first National BRA Day. No, it’s not about promoting a better bra fit, although a campaign along those lines wouldn’t be a bad idea. (I could use a yearly reminder to replenish my lingerie drawers with new sizes and styles.)

This National BRA Day initiative is brought to you by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and is an educational effort to make breast cancer patients more aware of their surgical options after mastectomy. BRA Day stands for Breast Reconstruction Awareness Day and will be promoted across North America, in multiple cities and states.

If you aren’t familiar with the specifics of breast cancer treatment, you may not know that only one in four women will end up with reconstructed breasts after their mastectomy surgeries. It often depends on where the cancer is located or has progressed, or whether post-surgical treatments like radiation and chemotherapy allow for breast tissue to be replaced. Those patients who are eligible may not know the options are available. According to Dr. Richard Baxter, a Seattle area plastic surgeon and National BRA Day event sponsor, “recent surveys show that nearly 7 out of 10 women with breast cancer are not being informed about the option for reconstruction. Insurance is required to cover as a matter of federal law but that doesn’t mean that women are being informed.”

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It might seem a bit self-serving for plastic surgeons to promote operations that benefit their practices. But reconstruction is a complicated procedure. It requires multiple doctors working together to achieve specific patient goals, not the least of which is eradicating the cancer. “Plastic surgeons aren’t getting rich doing reconstructive surgery,” says Dr. Baxter. “And fewer even do it, because it can be an inefficient use of time compared to elective surgery, hassles to coordinate schedules with the cancer surgeons, etc.” While breast reconstruction may involve numerous steps, Dr. Baxter points out that “among the biggest advances in recent years is the use of skin-sparing mastectomy with immediate reconstruction, which minimizes the number of operations and downtime.” BRA Day is meant to be a way to get this information out to those who aren’t aware of new methods.

Today’s reconstruction methods are safer and provide a more aesthetically pleasing result. But they aren't free of complications. These sculpted wonders don’t replace amputated body parts. Rebuilt breasts and tattooed areolas can’t restore lost breast and nipple sensitivity. It is a huge improvement over the disfiguring radical mastectomies of 40 years ago. Great advancements have been made in designing realistic custom breast prosthetics. New, lightweight breast forms are now worn with more attractive and stylish mastectomy bras and swimwear.

The best answer would be to eliminate the need for such surgeries. And we should be making more progress in reducing the number of women diagnosed with breast cancer each year. Then maybe a National BRA Day could be more about fit, support, and style – and not some reminder of a deadly disease.

What do you think of National BRA Day? Will you participate in upcoming events in your town?

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