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Breast Cancer and Reconstruction: Your Body, Your Path Forward

In Australia, recent data indicates that 1 in 8 women may face a breast cancer diagnosis at some point in their lives. For many, the choice of reconstruction might seem secondary amidst the whirlwind of emotions. 

The immediate thoughts often echo with urgency: What’s next? Will I require chemotherapy or radiation? What does my future hold?

Thanks to advancements in modern medicine, not only can we address breast cancer effectively, but we also possess the tools to diagnose it early through BreastScreen. Additionally, for those with a higher predisposition, genetic testing can identify potential breast cancer genes. Yet, for most, the initial phases are marked by uncertainty and anxiety.

Personal experiences sometimes shape our perceptions the most. My mother and maternal aunt are breast cancer survivors. While my aunt had the chance to choose breast conserving surgery (otherwise termed a lumpectomy), my mother wasn’t as fortunate. A mastectomy was her path to being cancer-free, which, on the brighter side, meant no radiation therapy.

I recall, as a budding doctor, accompanying her to her initial consultation. The discussions about the tumour’s location, surgical approach, and lymph nodes became overwhelming when concerning a loved one. Given her medical complications, it was evident early on that breast reconstruction might pose challenges.

But the subsequent years revealed struggles I hadn’t fully understood. From selecting attire that didn’t accentuate asymmetry, to discomfort with prostheses during hot weather, my mother’s daily challenges painted a vivid picture.

Certainly, breast reconstruction isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Some may opt out due to concerns about implants, additional scarring, extended hospital stays, or potential complications. Yet, I firmly believe everyone deserves the option. Reconstruction can profoundly impact self-esteem and overall well-being. Prostheses, though useful, have their limitations, from costs to potential size mismatches.

Embarking on this transformative path is a deeply individual choice. It requires aligning with medical experts, weighing options, and envisioning potential outcomes. Every individual’s experience is unique.

After all, feeling comfortable in one’s own skin should be a simple daily affair, not a tedious task of outfit changes. It’s about reclaiming a sense of self and normalcy.

And to that sentiment, I wholeheartedly concur.