Summary: Everybody knows about breast cancer, and the terrible effects it has not only on those who are diagnosed, but the surrounding friends and family as well. But there’s a new campaign that’s looking to add some emphasis to what comes after breast cancer has been beaten: breast reconstruction surgery. So the American Society of Plastic Surgeons has teamed with the Plastic Surgery Foundation to bring you the third annual Breast Reconstruction Awareness Day across the country.
The Breast and Identity
We hear again and again how important breast reconstruction is to the welfare of breast cancer survivors after mastectomy. It’s not just the breast, of course, it’s what the breast represents at that point: normality, the ability to nurture, the self image. It’s about getting as close to normal life as you can after something as arduous and traumatic as fighting breast cancer. And yet, many women are not always given the instructions they require—early enough in the treatment regiment—to facilitate this final step of the process.
Thank Goodness for BRAs
That’s one of the reasons why the American Society of Plastic Surgeons teams with the Plastic Surgery Foundation annually to host Breast Reconstruction Awareness day (or BRA, for the more playful). This year’s annual BRA Day USA event has happenings planned in major cities all across the country, all of which are designed to draw attention to the options women have when it comes to reconstruction after a successful battle with cancer.
Depending where you are in the nation, you should be able to find an event for breast reconstruction in New Jersey or Washington or Los Angeles. For an event such as this, geography isn’t as important as the universality of the message.
What is Breast Reconstruction?
When you stop to think about it, breast reconstruction surgery seems like a no-brainer. Essentially, plastic surgeons use technology, technique, and training developed for procedures such as breast augmentation to give women who beat breast cancer the appearance of normal breast tissue. There are a couple of different techniques to this procedure, and you’ll want to find a doctor that performs the technique you desire, as each technique does indeed have pros and cons.
What’s important is that your awareness of the possibilities of this procedure begins as early as possible. It’s important that your plastic surgeon and your oncology team work together in order to best preserve the breast tissue for the reconstruction that will follow your successful treatment.
Why is Breast Reconstruction so Important?
For many women, reconstruction is the final hurdle: the last step to take so that they can have a normal life. Certainly, reconstruction is not a guarantee of living a long and healthy life. Even with a complete mastectomy, cancer can recur. But a breast reconstruction surgery is often a statement about intention—it’s about the intention to get back to normal, to get back to living your daily life.
Cancer is one of those diseases that has the potential to upend the way you live your life. Doctor’s appointments become all encompassing. So, too, does nausea and sickness and feeling not like yourself. This is even worse because of the physical changes to your body that doctor’s make in order to combat the disease, mastectomy in particular.
The Importance of the Breast
What it boils down to, in the end, is that it’s difficult to disconnect the breast from your identity. Much as if you lost an arm or a leg, it might mean a fundamental shift in who you are. Breast reconstruction, then, is a procedure designed to keep your identity, to get it back. Or, in some instances, to change your identity. Because breast reconstruction often relies on implants—the same implants used in breast augmentation—some women elect to go up a size or two. As always, it’s a way to take control of your new lease on life.
Among the most fascinating aspects of breast reconstruction surgery is the way that plastic surgeons handle the nipple. Sometimes, it’s an extra piece of tissue. But often, the nipple is tattoos on by artists who specialize in giving objects a three-dimensional look. The nipple then, often becomes that very last step before normal life starts again, and you can pick up where you left off.
So it’s not surprising that BRA Day USA is a bit hit for a worthy cause. If you’d like to see a list of participating cities, or if you’d like to get your city to participate, click here for more information.