Hospitals Must Inform Mastectomy Patients About Breast Reconstruction Options
Updated: 10/24/2012 02:28 PM
By: Shazia Khan
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but mastectomy patients should also be aware of their breast reconstructive rights. NY1's Shazia Khan filed the following report.
Victoria Milne says the news that she needed a mastectomy was devastating.
"The fact of me having to lose my breast was so overwhelming and so scary and large, it was hard," she says.
Milne, 51, then underwent breast reconstruction.
"The overall feeling of healthiness and wholeness is fantastic," she says.
For 47-year-old Lydia Sussek, who had a double mastectomy, breast reconstruction was life-changing.
"I feel amazing and I feel that I've been given a huge gift," says Sussek.
A 1998 federal law mandates all women who have had a mastectomy be provided universal coverage for breast reconstruction.
"As long as the woman wants it and is a good medical and surgical candidate for it and understands the risks and the benefits of it, it's available," says Dr. Evan Garfein, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon at Montefiore Einstein Center for Cancer Care.
New York State went one step further in 2010 when it introduced legislation requiring hospitals inform all breast cancer patients about their reconstructive rights and options.
Garfein pushed for the bill and says two years later there is still more work to be done.
"We're still trying to gage it. What I can tell you is that just last week, I operated on a woman who'd had a mastectomy in 2008 in New York State and was not told about reconstruction," says Garfein. "And so there is still lots of women out there who have had mastectomies and are missing a breast and are interested and candidates for reconstruction who have not had it.
Experts encourage patients to get informed.
"The best thing they can do is they can ask their breast surgeon for a referral and if they need more information, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons has ample info as to whoever they can go to seek out a qualified, board-certified plastic surgeon who specializes in breast reconstruction," says Dr. Oren Lerman, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon at Lenox Hill Hospital's Institute for Comprehensive Breast Care.
As Milne says, breast reconstruction can be a "blessing," and a "miracle," but it is also a right.
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