What’s the Takeaway From Breast Cancer Awareness Month?

October has passed, and it’s time to reflect on what we learned from this year’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month. As in many years, we saw inspirational stories of survivors and heard amazing tallies of all the funds raised at walks, runs, and other charity events nationwide. But what really struck me this time was all the talk of breast reconstruction. At my Long Island practice, I take a personal interest in this specialized and complicated procedure, so I was glad to hear more about it this year than I ever have.

This was the second year in which BRA Day, or Breast Reconstruction Awareness Day, was celebrated. The occasion, which fell on Oct. 16 this year, is sponsored by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons® and the Plastic Surgery Foundation®, and it includes events nationwide to help spread the word about the various options that are available for women after a breast cancer diagnosis.

Breast reconstruction was in the news in a big way this year when actress Angelina Jolie announced that she had a preventive mastectomy after learning she was genetically at high risk for developing breast cancer. I was pleased to see her speak out so publicly about her experiences, because it spurred a lot of follow-up media stories and even research about breast reconstruction awareness.

A study this year showed that few women are aware of all the available reconstruction options, which are legally required to be covered by insurance. I have also heard and read much over the past few months about various new techniques in reconstruction, such as the growing popularity of using fat grafting in the procedure.

Of course, breast cancer and reconstruction awareness are not issues we should think about only one month a year, because they have likely touched all of our lives in profound ways. As a surgeon who deals with these topics on a daily basis, though, I’m glad we have these occasions to look back and think about how far we’ve come.

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