October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an entire month dedicated to raising awareness about breast cancer. However, there is one day in October that is very often overlooked - it's called "BRA Day" or Breast Reconstruction Awareness Day. This day is important because it raises awareness about the fact that every woman who undergoes a full or partial mastectomy during treatment of breast cancer has the option to undergo breast reconstruction if desired.
A Personal Story
Breast cancer is a diagnosis that hits close to home for me. My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer while she was pregnant with my little sister. Even though I was only 7 years old when my mother received her diagnosis, watching her journey as a young child is a large reason why I chose to pursue a career in plastic surgery. After her mastectomy in 1995, she elected for reconstruction using her own abdominal tissue. Luckily, she received excellent treatment and has been in remission for almost 26 years.
The Women's Health and Cancer Rights Act of 1998 (WHCRA)
Several years after my mother's diagnosis and mastectomy, the Women’s Health and Cancer Right Act (WHCRA) became a federal law on October 21, 1998. It states that a woman who has insurance coverage for mastectomy or partial mastectomy also has insurance coverage for:
- Reconstruction of the breast affected by the mastectomy with breast implant or flap made from your own tissue.
- Surgery on the other breast to make sure it is symmetrical and to match the reconstructed breast.
- Future revision surgeries to correct asymmetries or differences in the breast that happen over time.
During my plastic surgery training, I realized my mother could benefit from this law since it had been close to 20 years since her original mastectomy. I brought it to her attention, and talked with her about the need for revision of her breast reconstruction. She had no idea that her insurance would cover a revision procedure. I was shocked! How did my own mother not know that she was eligible for a revision procedure?
Since then, I have continued to find that many women don’t know their insurance will cover their original breast reconstruction, plus revision procedures later if needed. These procedures include breast implant placement, autologous reconstruction (using your own tissue to create a breast), replacement of breast implants after reconstruction, axillary skin excision (extra skin under the armpit), fat grafting and nipple reconstruction.
It is important for all women to know that this law exists. If you receive a breast cancer diagnosis, you should know that reconstruction of your breasts will be covered by your insurance. You should meet with a plastic surgeon who is part of your breast cancer team to help discuss options that are available for you. Breast cancer can be a difficult diagnosis, but I have found that reconstruction can help make patients feel “whole” again.
If you or someone you know has recently been diagnosed with breast cancer, or is looking for a revision of their past breast reconstruction, you can call 812-426-9235
to schedule a consultation with me to discuss your options!