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Give Women Hope For Recovery After a Mastectomy

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Sponsor: The Breast Cancer Site

Sign the petition in favor of helping more women have access to post-mastectomy reconstructive surgery.

Imagine finding out you have breast cancer and need to undergo a mastectomy. But what next? How do you move forward after such an emotional experience?

While plastic surgery is rarely covered by most insurance providers, breast reconstruction after a mastectomy is a different issue. Access to this type of coverage isn't guaranteed to all women who undergo a mastectomy; there are intricate details under current laws that block women from receiving this kind of care. Elderly and underprivileged women are especially under-served with regards to breast reconstruction following a mastectomy.

Breast reconstruction surgery can be an important process in the recovery from breast cancer. By understanding the support needs of patients who have undergone breast reconstruction procedures, healthcare practitioners can better support those who have this surgery and better guide patients who might be considering the same1.

Women's support experiences are shaped by interactions with healthcare providers, family members, friends, and other women who have experienced breast reconstruction. The most important of these needs include access to information, help with daily tasks, emotional connection, and being understood, though women's support experiences and their need for support can differ widely1.

The Women's Health and Cancer Right Act, passed in 1998, requires insurance companies to provide coverage for postmastectomy breast reconstruction2. More and more women have been undergoing postmastectomy breast reconstruction since the law was passed, but less than expected, with data showing just 33% of eligible women in the United States undergo immediate or early delayed breast reconstruction3.

Under the WHCRA2, mastectomy benefits must cover:

  • Reconstruction of the breast that was removed by mastectomy
  • Surgery and reconstruction of the other breast to make the breasts look symmetrical or balanced after mastectomy
  • Any external breast prostheses (breast forms that fit into your bra) that are needed before or during the reconstruction
  • Any physical complications at all stages of mastectomy, including lymphedema (fluid build-up in the arm and chest on the side of the surgery)

Breast reconstruction can be done immediately after mastectomy surgery or later as a second surgery depending on an individual's preference and needs. And there are now at least six different breast reconstruction options available to meet the varied needs different women may have4.

Breast reconstruction should be available to EVERY mastectomy patient. Stand up for women everywhere and sign the petition supporting custom breast reconstructions for women who have undergone a mastectomy.

More on this issue:

  1. Tracey L. Carr, PhD, Gary Groot, MD, PhD, David Cochran, BSc, Mikaela Vancoughnett, BA(Hons), and Lorraine Holtslander, PhD, RN, Cancer Nursing (March 2019), "Exploring Women's Support Needs After Breast Reconstruction Surgery."
  2. American Cancer Society, Inc. (2021), "Women's Health and Cancer Rights Act."
  3. Sara E. Soni, MD, M. Catherine Lee, MD, and Clement K. Gwede, PhD, MPH, RN, Cancer Control (November 2017), "Disparities in Use and Access to Postmastectomy Breast Reconstruction Among African American Women."
  4. Edwin Wilkins, M.D., M.S., Institute for Healthcare Policy & Innovation (6 August 2018), "After mastectomy: Large study follows reconstruction patients for info on outcomes."
  5. Breastcancer.org (19 October 2017), "More Women Having Reconstruction After Mastectomy."
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The Petition:

Dear leaders of the Congressional Women's Caucus,

I am writing to you because you're a strong advocate for women's issues in Congress. Breast cancer continues to affect millions of Americans every year. Almost no one is untouched by this powerful disease. I believe that we need to offer our women more comprehensive care when they are diagnosed and treated for breast cancer.

For example, mastectomies can be one of the scariest and traumatizing parts of dealing with a breast cancer diagnosis, and women should receive comprehensive care before, during, and after this process. A mastectomy can produce many complex emotions for a woman, and it's her personal choice whether or not she undergoes reconstructive surgery post-mastectomy. But this option should always be available to her. Too often, elderly and underprivileged women do not have access to health care at all in times of need, let alone the option for reconstruction.

Currently, there are restrictions to what a woman has access to after this type of surgery. For example, if other treatment methods are viable, but the woman chooses a mastectomy anyway, reconstruction coverage isn't always available.

A woman has the right to rebuild her life and her body after such a traumatizing and personal experience. Please advocate on behalf of breast cancer patients and make breast reconstruction an option for all women who have undergone mastectomies.


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