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Reconstruction After Cancer

June 19, 2009, 5:09 PM by Kelli Grant

Every year, some 200,000 women in the country are told they have breast cancer. What they're not always told is how to cope with the aftermath of cancer.  In order to beat their disease, thousands of women will lose one or both breasts, leaving them scarred or disfigured. And all too often, that's where the treatment ends. But some doctors insist women deserve more.

When she was diagnosed with breast cancer, Victoria Bordner says she went from being relieved to being perplexed. Her cancer was caught early and was curable; still she learned it would cost her part of her body.

"I couldn't reconcile the notion that the only thing they had for my tiny, slow-growing breast cancer, was to cut my whole brest off," Bordner said.

Bordner was left to wonder why winning the battle against cancer meant she had to lose a breast.

"Especially in women breast cancer, there can be a tremendous deformity of their breast, and this can add to suffering caused by the cancer," Dr. Michael Miller of James Cancer Hospital & Solove Research Institute said.

So as often as he can, Dr. Miller meets with patients before they undergo surgery. Miller, a plastic surgeon, says while plans are being made to remove the cancer, they should also be made to reconstruct the breast. But studies show that general surgeons talk about those options to one out of every three patients. Miller says the best option is for cancer surgeons and plastic surgeons to work side-by-side.

"The mastectomy is performed in a way that preserves as much as the breast skin as possible and this facilitates the reconstruction," Miler said.

Bordner opted for reconstructive surgery and says she's glad she did. Because once the cancer was gone, she wanted to move on.

"I was going to make it so that I didn't have to look in the mirror and think about the breast cancer every time I saw myself," Bordner said.

Studies also show that when given the option of reconstructive surgery, 70 percent of women want it. As for paying for it, 35 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws requiring insurance companies to cover reconstructive surgeries after losing a breast to cancer. South Dakota and Iowa have not passed such laws.

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