Factors affecting decisions about breast reconstruction
The decision about whether and when to have a breast reconstruction can be influenced by:
- Specialist services
- Individual characteristics
- Where you live and the travel required
- Your financial situation.
If you have a breast reconstruction after a mastectomy for breast cancer, your decision will also be affected by what ongoing breast cancer treatments you are having.
Breast reconstructions may be undertaken by a breast reconstruction surgeon or a breast surgeon. A breast reconstruction may be done by the same surgeon who does a mastectomy or by a different surgeon.
Breast reconstruction surgeons may or may not have specialised training in reconstructive surgery techniques. The breast reconstruction surgeon’s experience and training may influence which breast reconstruction options are offered to you.
It is important to ask about a surgeon’s training and experience in breast reconstruction surgery and about what breast reconstruction procedures he/she does. You may decide to ask for a second opinion from another surgeon who does other types of breast reconstruction procedures before making a final decision.
Your breast reconstruction options may be influenced by a number of things, including:
- breast size
- how much suitable tissue and skin is available from other parts of the body
- whether you have scars from previous operations
- your body build
- your medical history.
All of these things can affect the likely look and feel of the breast reconstruction (sometimes called the aesthetic outcome). You will be able to discuss these factors with your breast reconstruction surgeon.
There are few breast reconstruction surgeons in regional and rural areas. They usually only do limited types of breast reconstruction (typically implant breast reconstructions). In most cases, women from rural and regional areas travel to major city centres for their breast reconstruction surgery.
Travelling for surgery can mean being away from home for extended periods of time. The costs of travel and accommodation may cause financial strain. It can also be hard to be away from family and friends.
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The financial costs of breast reconstruction will depend on several things, including:
- whether you have surgery as a private or public patient
- whether you have private health cover and what the private health cover will pay for
- what your chosen breast reconstruction surgeon, anaesthetist and hospital charge for their services
- how many follow-up visits you need
- how far you live from the hospital in which surgery is done
- whether you are eligible for a tax rebate or financial assistance (e.g. travel).