After remission, some breast cancer patients weigh breast reconstruction

Published On: Oct 14 2013 06:22:00 PM HST

For some women, the fight against breast cancer doesn't end when it goes into remission.

For many, the mental challenge of accepting a different looking body can be difficult.

When 35-year-old Selena Kaichi felt a lump in her breast nearly two years ago, she knew something was wrong.

"Scared, anxious, petrified, worried when I first found out about the breast cancer," she said.

Kaichi is cancer-free now, but undergoing a mastectomy and breast reconstruction surgery forced her to change her attitude.

"I've accepted I'll never be the old Selena but I'm the new and improved Selena," she said.

Less than one in five women in the U.S. who undergo mastectomy go in to have breast reconstruction, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

"I think lot focused on cancer. They don't consider reconstruction but if you look at whole, reconstruction is a vital part of whole treatment for patients," said plastic surgeon Dr. Jeff Healy.

Under the Federal Women's Health and Cancer Rights Act of 1998, health insurance plans that offer mastectomy coverage are required to provide coverage for reconstructive surgery after mastectomy.

But seven out of 10 women are not aware of their options, according to the ASPS.

"Many women delay that for various reasons. We want to put their mind at ease by having them talking to people who have gone through it," said Kathy Dittmar, director of Pali Momi Women's Health.

There are two types of breast reconstructive surgery -- one uses implants; the other uses a patient's own tissue.

The goal is to restore the shape and size under normal clothing.

There will be some scars after surgery, mastectomy and reconstruction, but doctors say the outcome is usually positive.

For Kaichi, the surgery changed much more than just her appearance.

"I'm still my same happy self. It gives me more confidence," she said.


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