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Closing the loop on breast cancer

Oct. 17, 2011

Dr. Mitch Brown For a woman who has undergone a mastectomy – the removal of one or both breasts – reconstruction surgery can be the boost needed to regain self-confidence, embrace her femininity and improve quality of life.

On Oct. 19, 2011 Canada will have its first ever Breast Reconstruction Awareness (BRA) Day, promoting education, awareness and access for women considering post-mastectomy breast reconstruction surgery. To celebrate BRA Day, a series of informative and educational events will be held nationwide, bringing together groups of women to hear first-hand about the procedure.

A special BRA Day event, Breast Reconstruction – An Evening of Learning and Sharing, will be hosted by Women’s College Hospital and Toronto General Hospital from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the basement of the Clinical Services Building, room BC S021 at the Toronto General Hospital. This event is open to the public and all are invited to attend.

Reconstruction surgery, which restores post-mastectomy breasts to near-normal shape, appearance and size, is not a new phenomenon. However, studies consistently show that very low percentages of women are opting for the procedure both in Canada and the U.S., even though it’s covered by health insurance. This is often because mastectomy patients are either not informed of their options for reconstruction, or they have difficulty accessing the services in a safe and timely manner.

“Part of the goal of BRA Day is to set a precedent where women are told about the reconstruction process at the time of diagnosis,” says Dr. Mitchell Brown, staff plastic surgeon at Women’s College Hospital (WCH) and BRA Day founder. “But it shouldn’t stop there. Reconstruction should be a topic that underscores a woman’s entire journey through cancer recovery, punctuating a return to self and a sense of normalcy.”

WCH has been at the forefront of breast reconstruction surgery since the 1980s and has three of the leading Canadian experts in the field: Dr. Mitchell Brown, Dr. John Semple and Dr. Brett Beber. The hospital has performed more breast reconstruction surgeries than anywhere else in Ontario, and was the first Canadian site to approve the use of AlloDerm, a material made from human skin that has revolutionized reconstruction surgeries. Most recently it has also become a leader in ambulatory surgical practices, such as the TRAM flap procedure, which takes skin, fat and muscle from the lower abdomen to construct new breasts.

The BRA Day logo, a variation on the pink breast cancer awareness ribbon, depicts an infinity symbol that offers a unique meaning.

“It’s meant to represent continuity and longevity,” says Brown. “Since reconstruction surgery comes after a woman has been diagnosed and successfully treated for breast cancer, the ribbon symbolizes a closing of the loop on breast cancer.”

For more information on BRA day and regional events, visit www.bra-day.com.

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