Improving Access to Care: Breast Surgeons, the Gatekeepers to Breast Reconstruction

Christine H. Rohde, MDIt is well documented that surgery to reconstruct the breast after mastectomy for breast cancer is an important factor in women's quality of life and well-being in the long term. Because this is so important, the state of New York passed a law in 2010 requiring that general surgeons and oncologists discuss options and insurance coverage for breast reconstruction with their patients before performing cancer surgery.

Now, a study published in the March 2012 issue of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons has found that patients referred by general surgeons or surgical oncologists for consultations with plastic surgeons are significantly more likely to undergo breast reconstruction after mastectomy than those patients not referred.

"Not all mastectomy patients will be candidates for breast reconstruction, and some may prefer not to undergo the surgery for personal reasons. However, our study findings indicate that general surgeons who have this discussion with patients, and ultimately refer them, play a very important role in the decision to undergo reconstruction as well as in access to this type of care," said Christine H. Rohde, MD, senior author of the study.

"It is incumbent upon the general surgeon to refer mastectomy patients for consultations with plastic surgeons," added Beth Aviva Preminger, MD, MPH, lead author. "Doing this for all mastectomy patients can ultimately improve patient care, as it has been well-documented that patients who receive breast reconstruction often experience an overall improved quality of life."

Do you have a question about breast reconstruction surgery or treatment for breast cancer? Read about reconstruction after breast surgery.