MONCTON – It’s “BRA” day, Breast Reconstruction Awareness Day, across the Maritimes. It’s a day that promotes education, awareness and access for women who may wish to consider post-mastectomy breast reconstruction.
It’s been just over a eight years since Kerry (Tink) Swetnam had breast reconstruction surgery.
“It never fails to surprise me now much women don’t know what’s available out there,” she said.
Which is why doctors across the Maritimes are trying to education women about the options that are available for breast cancer survivors and post-mastectomy patients.
Plastic Surgeon, Dr. Brent Howley, says the procedure is becoming more readily available and accepted among breast cancer survivors. But he says he is still surprised by a continued lack of awareness about the procedure.
“You hear a lot of things like, ‘I am not a candidate for breast reconstruction, I can’t have breast reconstruction it’s not for me,’” he said.
Swetnam says many people still don’t realize that most reconstruction options are actually covered by Medicare.
“People will look and say, ‘I had no idea I could have that done, I thought I would have to pay for it,’” she said. “New Brunswick Medicare pays for it. It is breast cancer-related, Medicare covers the costs.
“Quite often if a woman has breast cancer on one breast anything that has to be done to the opposite breast in terms of achieving balance and symmetry it is covered in full,” said Dr. Howley.
Swetnam was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007 and opted for a double mastectomy because the disease she says is common in her family.
“In my family on my mother’s side I lost every aunt and every cousin by rank of age to breast cancer,” she said.
Dr. Howley says that is not an option for everyone, but he says women do have more choices now.
“Our options in terms of reconstruction are more and we’ve also come a long way in terms of doing reconstruction at the same time as their mastectomy,” he said.
Which is what Swetnam opted to do.
“You know maybe years ago having fake or reconstructed breast was more of a stigma,” she said.
She now councils women diagnosed with breast cancer facing a mastectomy. She says their biggest worry is what they will look like following surgery. She recalls one woman who was in tears at the thought of losing her breasts.
“At least go talk to someone see what’s out there.”