Time for a checkup

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Time for a checkup

As a board-certified
plastic surgeon in St. Joseph who regularly works with breast cancer
survivors, I strongly urge support of October as a National Breast
Cancer Awareness Month by reminding the women you love to schedule
regular cancer screenings.

Early detection
through self-examination and medical screening are key prevention
methods. For the estimated 175,000 diagnosed with breast cancer each
year, advances in plastic surgery and break-through legislation have
helped make such devastating news easier to bear.

Improvements in
post-surgical therapies, including several breast reconstruction options,
are helping allay the fear of disfigurement from mastectomy. Typically,
plastic surgeons make recomendations based upon the patient’s health,
anatomy, tissues, and goals. The most common procedures include skin
expansion followed by the use of implants, or flap reconstruction.

Equally important
to breast cancer survivors is the 1998 passage of the Women’s Health
and Cancer Rights Act that mandates insurance coverage for breast
cancer reconstruction following a mastectomy. Unfortunately, the law
does not apply to women enrolled in the Medicare or Medicaid programs.

plastic surgeons, such as myself, know first hand how breast reconstruction
improves a survivor’s self-esteem and confidence after mastectomy.

The American Society
of Plastic Surgeons was a major supporter of the WHCRA and is proud
to have been a part of the effort to stop insurance denials for the
surgery. Now almost every woman who loses her breast to cancer can
have it rebuilt thorugh reconstructive surgery. Discussion about this
can start immediately after diagnosis.

Breast reconstruction
following mastectomy increased 166 percent between 1992 and 2000,
with 78,832 procedures performed in 2000.

My fellow members
of ASPS and I are well aware of the devastating effects of breast
cancer. We support all women in their fight against the disease. For
all breast cancer patients, I suggest the following: talk to a board-certified
plastic surgeon regarding reconstruction options, and discuss the
pros, cons and realistic expectations of those options.