October 16th is Breast Reconstruction Awareness Day.


Breast Cancer Awareness Quilt

Wednesday, October 16 is Breast Reconstruction Awareness (BRA) day.  BRA day is a collaborative effort between The American Society of Plastic Surgeons, The Plastic Surgery Foundation, plastic surgeons, breast centers, nurse navigators, corporate sponsors and breast cancer support groups designed to promote education, awareness and access regarding post-mastectomy breast reconstruction.

  • According to The American Society of Plastic Surgeons Website, studies show:
  • 89% of women want to see the results of breast reconstruction surgery before undergoing cancer treatment.
  • Less than 23% of women know the wide range of breast reconstruction options available.
  • Only 22% of women are familiar with the quality of outcomes that can be expected.
  • 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.

These numbers tell us that we simply aren’t doing enough to educate women about their reconstructive options.  The choice to undergo reconstructive surgery after mastectomy or lumpectomy is a personal choice.  Some women have a basic understanding of breast reconstruction after going through the process with a mother, sister or friend who themselves are breast cancer survivors.  However, for many women, the diagnosis of breast cancer is their first time dealing with these issues.  In addition to coping with the new diagnosis of cancer, these women are faced with the options of surgical treatment that they fear will leave them “disfigured” or “less of a woman.”

The breast can be reconstructed after mastectomy on one side (unilateral) or both sides (bilateral).  Reconstructive options include saline or silicone breast implants, tissue expanders followed by the placement of breast implants, or even the use of the patients own tissue to reconstruct the breast (known as autologous reconstruction).  The latter option uses tissue from the abdomen, back, inner thighs or buttocks to reshape the breast mound.  Following breast reconstruction, the nipples can be reconstructed and the areola can even be tattooed on the reconstruction to make the breast appear more real and natural.

For women undergoing partial mastectomy or lumpectomy, the amount of tissue needed to remove the full tumor is often so large that they are left with a significant deformity of the breast.  Plastic surgeons have expanded on our breast reduction techniques to develop a technique called Oncoplastic Surgery.  This procedure is planned much like a traditional breast reduction or breast lift.  The tissue that is normally discarded after a breast reduction is left attached to the breast and used to fill in the defect left by the removal of the tumor.  Unfortunately, to be a candidate for this type of reconstruction, your breasts need to be large enough that you would benefit from a reduction or a lift.  Women with smaller breasts will need to explore other options.

Breast reconstruction is a highly individualized process.  To find out what options are available to you or your loved one, it’s best to make an appointment with a Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon.

Many people associate plastic surgery with “cosmetic surgery,” when in fact our job is often repairing defects and restoring the body to a more natural state.  We have the fortunate job of giving back to women what their diagnosis of breast cancer may have taken away.  Our goal is not only to reshape and rebuild the breast, but also to rebuild our patient’s self-esteem, dignity and confidence.

Learn more about BRA Day.

Statistical information above provided by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

To compare all options for breast reconstruction after cancer treatment, including animations of the surgical procedures for breast reconstruction using a patient’s own tissue, visit the Johns Hopkins Medicine Avon Foundation Breast Center website.



Troy Pittman, M.D., is an Assistant Professor of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. He practices both at the Johns Hopkins Breast Center at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center and the Medical Pavilion at Howard County General Hospital. Dr. Pittman specializes in reconstructive breast surgery. His clinical interests include breast reconstruction as well as revisionary and cosmetic surgery of the breast.