October 16, 2012

Vanderbilt University Medical Center observes Breast Reconstruction Awareness (BRA) Day

Vanderbilt’s Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the Vanderbilt Breast Center and the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing are joining to observe Breast Reconstruction Awareness (BRA) Day at 10 a.m., Wednesday, Oct. 17, at the Vanderbilt Breast Center, located at Vanderbilt Health One Hundred Oaks.

This is Nashville’s and Vanderbilt’s first observance of BRA Day. The day originated last year when Canadian Parliament established it as the third Wednesday in October. BRA Day is now being observed in more than 20 countries.

Wednesday’s event at One Hundred Oaks will include brief remarks from Bruce Shack, M.D., professor and chair of Plastic Surgery; Colleen Conway-Welch, Ph.D., Hilliard and Nancy Travis Professor of Nursing and dean of the Vanderbilt School of Nursing; Ingrid Meszoely, assistant professor of Surgical Oncology and clinical director of the Vanderbilt Breast Center, and recording star Heidi Newfield.

Tours of the Vanderbilt Breast Center will also be offered. Two patients who received breast reconstructive surgery, and a nurse from Vanderbilt Reconstructive Surgery, will also be available for interviews at One Hundred Oaks.

Shack said awareness of breast reconstructive surgery, and its availability, need to increase, noting that all procedures utilized for breast reconstruction are covered by almost all insurance companies and considered a natural part of the treatment of breast cancer.

“Across the country, and around the world, there are many women who require mastectomy for management of their breast cancer who do not have access to breast reconstruction,” he said. “So the celebration of this day is an effort to make women, their families and the public at large aware of the multiple options available for breast reconstruction for those women diagnosed with breast cancer.

Ingrid Meszoely, M.D., clinical director of the Vanderbilt Breast Center, said surgical resection can be performed as a mastectomy or lumpectomy, depending on the individual and the type and size of cancer. Mastectomy is performed for breast cancer in 40 percent to 45 percent of women with early breast cancers and this trend is increasing nationwide, she said.

“Breast reconstruction provides restoration of ‘normalness,’ femininity, sexuality and improvement in self-image following mastectomy,” Meszoely said.  “Breast reconstruction may be offered to women of all ages.  This can be done at the same time of the mastectomy, called immediate reconstruction or at a later date called delayed reconstruction.  Delayed reconstruction is usually offered to women with advanced cancers who may require post mastectomy radiation.”

At Vanderbilt nearly all women are offered reconstructive options, Meszoely added.

For Conway-Welch the issue hits close to home.

“A diagnosis of breast cancer and subsequent decision making regarding treatment options is often a stressful time for impacted individuals. The trauma of discovering a lump and going through surgery causes many women to not even want to consider reconstruction at that time,” Conway-Welch said. “My mother and sister have both been through this.  My mother did not have reconstruction and always regretted it. My sister did and has been delighted with the results.”