Half of breast cancer patients make poor decisions about breast reconstruction

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Half of breast cancer patients make poor decisions about breast reconstruction
Credit: Ohio State University.

In a recent study led by the Ohio State University, researchers find that 57% of breast cancer patients choose breast reconstruction without knowing the risks of the procedure.

The findings are published in JAMA Surgery.

Breast reconstruction is a plastic surgery which creates a breast shape using an artificial implant, a flap of tissue from another part of your body, or both.

Many women choose to get breast implants at the same time as their mastectomy. This means when they wake up from the surgery, they won’t be shocked by seeing they have only one or no breast.

Making the decision to do breast reconstruction requires medical knowledge of treatment choices – including associated risks – and the understanding of personal goals and preferences.

In the study, the researchers evaluated the decision quality of 126 women with breast cancer. All patients had stage I-III invasive ductal/lobular breast cancer. Most patients (73 percent) had early-stage disease.

The team tested the women’s knowledge about mastectomy and breast reconstruction and how the surgery could influence appearance and health.

They also measured each woman’s preference of breast shape, length of recovery time, and risk and complications.

The results were shocking and showed that 57% of breast cancer patients didn’t had enough knowledge about breast reconstruction.

Many of them could not make decisions that aligned with their personal preferences. This means they could not get the treatment they preferred or they might get over treated.

In addition, about 86% of women worried about the complications of breast reconstruction, but they didn’t know how high the risk was.

The researchers suggest that doctors should discuss the pros and cons of breast reconstruction with patients thoroughly before the surgery. This can help them make high-quality treatment choices.

“Shared decision-making between the surgeon and patient would be particularly useful for this decision. We need to connect patients with decision aids to help them really think through what is most important to them.”