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What Breast Cancer Patients Should Know About Prosthesis

Helpful tips on prosthetic options and reconstruction for women who’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer. From Dear God, They Say It’s Cancer: A Companion Guide for Women on the Breast Cancer Journey by Janet Thompson

  • Talk with your doctor about prosthetic options before surgery so you can make an informed decision.
  • You can get more information on prosthesis through the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345.
  • If you decide on a prosthesis, ask for a prescription for it.
  • Check with your health insurance company to find out what and how much they cover. Plans typically cover a prosthesis every other year and two to three postmastectomy bras every year.
  • If you cannot afford a prosthesis, contact the Y-ME Prosthesis Bank at 800-221-2141 (English) or 800-986-9505 (Spanish).
  • You usually can find a certified prosthesis fitter and retailer through the cancer center at a hospital near you. The fitter can help you find the right prosthesis.
  • You may be able to wear a temporary prosthesis when you leave the hospital after mastectomy.
  • Your first prosthesis fitting usually can be scheduled six weeks to eight weeks after surgery, when the swelling has subsided and scars have healed more.
  • You are entitled to change your mind about reconstruction if you find later that a prosthesis isn’t working for you.

Reconstruction on the Rise
Most women who have undergone a mastectomy — and in some cases, lumpectomy patients — choose reconstruction over an external prosthesis, Orange County breast surgeons say. “There’s a tremendous emotional, psychological, and rehabilitative value to reconstruction,” said Dr. Ed Luce, president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. “Scars remind patients of the loss of the breast. Reconstruction restores their self-esteem. It says in an eloquent, nonverbal way that those who are giving care to the patient have absolute confidence in her ultimate recovery and survival.”

Nationally, the number of breast reconstructions has increased 174 percent in a decade — from 29,607 in 1992 to 81,089 in 2001, according to the surgeons group. Most of these follow breast cancer surgery. The increase can be attributed partly to the Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act of 1998, which mandates health-insurance coverage for breast reconstruction and alteration of the other breast for symmetry in women who have had a mastectomy.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Janet Thompson, author of Dear God They Say It’s Cancer: A Companion Guide for Women on the Breast Cancer Journey (Copyright © 2006 by Janet Thompson), quit her secular career to go into full-time lay ministry, starting the Woman to Woman Mentoring Ministry at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. She is the founder and director of About His Work Ministries, also known as AHW Ministries, and is a frequent speaker on topics relevant to today’s Christian women. Janet has authored several products for her Woman to Woman ministry, including Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter. Janet and her husband, Dave, have four married children and nine grandchildren. They make their home in Lake Forest, California.

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