(Good Things Utah) Dealing with a diagnosis of breast cancer is always a traumatic ordeal. Breast cancer can be even more stressful because of the visible nature of the disease. Whether it is the prospect of temporarily losing hair from chemotherapy or the loss of a portion or all of one or both breasts, these are often significant symbols of a woman’s self-image. 

Every year almost 300,000 women face this situation. That means women in the United States currently have a one in eight chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer.

Unfortunately, studies have shown that more than 75% of women do not know all of the options available to them for reconstruction after mastectomy or lumpectomy. 

And only 19% of women understand that the timing of their treatment for breast cancer and the timing of their decision to undergo reconstruction greatly impacts their options and results.

Although many breast cancer patients have no interest in reconstructive surgery, Dr. Christopher Shale, Intermountain Healthcare plastic and reconstructive surgeon, says the most important thing is to educate patients about their options so they can make the decision that is best for them.

“The conversation usually starts with the general surgeon who performs the cancer surgery,” said Dr. Shale. “But it’s important to know the options even before the cancer removal surgery because there are often cases where the reconstruction can take place at the same time.”

Microsurgical Breast Reconstruction using a patient’s own tissue (such as the DIEP flap) is currently the gold standard for reconstruction.

Jenny Cottle, 44, a  breast cancer survivor says the DIEP flap surgery was life-changing and didn’t even know it was an option when she was first diagnosed in 2019 after discovering a lump in her breast during a self-check.

Cottle chose to do surgery first, then some chemotherapy and 28 rounds of radiation.

“This is all part of the modified, revised version of myself,” said Cottle. “We call it the Jenny 2.0.”

She’s now looking forward to a celebration of life cruise with her family in January and getting back to everyday life events but is so grateful to all the doctors, friends, family, and neighbors who have also helped her on the cancer journey. 

Breast Reconstruction Awareness (BRA) Event

To commemorate Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Intermountain Healthcare is hosting a free Breast Reconstruction Awareness (BRA) event on Saturday, October 22 from 6:30 PM to 9 PM at the Leonardo Museum in downtown Salt Lake City to celebrate breast cancer survivors and educate breast cancer patients about advances in reconstruction surgery.

The BRA event is designed for breast cancer patients, survivors, and family members to meet with surgeons to learn more about advances in breast reconstruction surgery and other treatment options. “It will be a night of celebrating our survivors, talking about options, and education, and giving the public a chance to get to know the Intermountain team of caregivers,” said Dr. Shale. “We are really looking forward to it. Due to COVID, it’s been a few years since we’ve held an event like this.”

To learn more, go online to IntermountainHealthcare.org.

**This segment contains sponsored content