Movement pushes breast reconstruction for cancer survivors - WSMV Channel 4

Movement pushes breast reconstruction for cancer survivors

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October has long been established as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and now there's a new movement to bring attention to something many patients face after their diagnosis: breast reconstruction.

Leila Grossman was diagnosed with breast cancer three years ago, when she was 40. And with a long family history of breast cancer, she knew right away she wanted a double mastectomy.

"It was a no-brainer to take them off. Some people are very attached to them. I, for one, was not," she said.

Grossman was back at Vanderbilt University Medical Center on Wednesday for Breast Reconstruction Awareness Day, or BRA Day, an effort to educate women about their options for breast reconstruction.

"It's estimated that 70 percent of women in the United States who undergo a mastectomy are not given options for reconstruction at the time of their mastectomy," said Dr. Bruce Shack, chairman of the plastic surgery department at Vanderbilt.

Shack works with many breast cancer patients.

"The emotional overlay is very difficult for these women and their families to deal with. And so some women will opt to delay their reconstruction and not have it done at the same time as their mastectomy, which is a reasonable choice because they have so much on their plate," he said.

But after consultation, Shack says most women choose to have some form of reconstruction done at the time of their mastectomy.

Lisa Barrett was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer last year, and like Grossman, she also chose to have a double mastectomy.

"It was very emotional. It was a tough decision," Barrett said.

Both women are now finished with all their reconstructive surgeries and proud of their decisions.

"It builds your self-esteem. Now I don't even think about it. They are what they are. And I feel as close to normal as I can," Barrett said.

"I mean, he gave me back something that I lost, and better," Grossman said.

In May, actress Angelina Jolie revealed that she'd chosen a double mastectomy after learning she carries a certain gene that significantly increases the risk of developing cancer.

The women and doctors with whom we spoke at Vanderbilt applauded Jolie for coming forward with her story and bringing more public awareness to the disease.

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