Breast cancer is a devastating diagnosis for any woman. There’s so much for a patient to contend with—from learning about the disease and treatment options to dealing with the emotional impact and its effect on self and family. It’s not too surprising that making a decision about breast reconstruction tends to take a back seat.
The American College of Surgeons (ACS) wants to change that. The organization has developed a new computer-based learning module to help women consider breast reconstruction early in their breast cancer journey.
In a press release published during the organization’s October 2009 Clinical Congress, Dr. Bernard T. Lee of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School described a recent study in which a group of women were given a computer-based decision-making CD. The CD presents breast reconstruction approaches and data on surgical outcomes. It discusses what the procedures and recovery are like and includes pictures and diagrams. According to Dr. Lee, it is both comprehensive and user-friendly.
The study showed that women who used the CD were more likely to feel a strong sense of involvement in the breast reconstruction decision than those who did not see the module. Those who used the program retained more information about reconstruction and many more reported being satisfied with their learning experience than those who did not use the CD.
Dr. Lee noted that the CD can be given to a patient to take home and study at her leisure. It can also be shown to patients before a traditional office consultation. Either way, Dr. Lee hopes that a tool like this will help patients understand their choices thoroughly and make an active, informed decision about what’s best for them.
The ACS hopes that when women are well informed, many will choose reconstruction. Obviously ACS members are generally pro-surgery, but the group also points to the many studies over the last two decades that have shown dramatic improvements in self-esteem and body image for breast cancer patients who have undergone reconstructive surgery.