“Women can’t make an informed choice if they’re not given all of the choices,” Guthrie said.
It’s important for patients to feel connected to their providers, said Susan Brown, senior director of health information and publications for Susan G. Komen. If someone feels like she wants to consider going flat and is not getting support from her surgeons, it may be time for a second opinion, Brown said.
“One of the first things that stood out [about the study] was how important information is to patients before they try to make a decision or before they’re faced with a decision,” Brown said. “The second is how important physician support is for acknowledging, understanding and really respecting a patient’s wishes so that the provider or the patient can partner in making decisions because it looks like when that happens, then patients are more satisfied with the decision that they’ve ultimately made.”
Mastectomies have been increasing in recent years for a variety of reasons, Brown said. Not having reconstruction isn’t new, but it isn’t always something that’s been discussed as openly, she said.
Patients who are exploring their options can call the 1-877-Go-Komen helpline, she suggested.
“Patients who are really exploring this as an option and want to just bounce some ideas off of someone and get some support for what they’re thinking about and to get a little support for getting that second opinion, they could certainly reach out to our Komen breast cancer helpline for that kind of information,” Brown said.
The study was published online recently in the Annals of Surgical Oncology. Attai is now working with surgeons and patient advocates to develop a new survey tool.
“And then we have several directions to go, one of which is applying this to a broader patient population,” Attai said. “The other is looking at our surgical education, making sure that our general surgeons and those who are doing a breast surgical oncology fellowship, that they’re getting trained in flat closure.”
The American Cancer Society has more on alternatives to breast reconstruction.
SOURCES: Deanna Attai, MD, associate clinical professor, surgery, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles; Susan Brown, MS, RN, senior director, health information and publications, Susan G. Komen, Dallas; Catherine Guthrie, cancer survivor, Somerville, Mass.; Annals of Surgical Oncology, Jan. 3, 2021, online