A Qualitative Assessment of the Journey to Delayed Breast Reconstruction.

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Abstract

BACKGROUND

Canada has low immediate breast reconstruction (IBR) rates compared to the United States and Europe. Breast cancer survivors live with mastectomy defects sometimes for years, and this represents an area for improvement in cancer care.

PURPOSE

This study qualitatively assessed (1) information provided about breast reconstruction at the time of cancer diagnosis among women seeking delayed breast reconstruction (DBR) and (2) referral practices for plastic surgery consultation for DBR.

METHODS

Fifty-two consecutive patients seen in consultation for DBR at a single Canadian tertiary care centre completed questionnaires regarding their experience in seeking breast reconstruction. Seven semi-structured interviews were conducted to further explore themes identified through questionnaires. Questionnaire responses and interview transcripts were analyzed for recurring themes using standard qualitative techniques.

RESULTS

A significant portion of women (43%) was interested in reconstruction prior to mastectomy, yet IBR was infrequently discussed (14%) or discouraged by their oncologic surgeons (33%). Common patient reasons for not pursuing IBR were referring physician objection and not having adequate knowledge. Women expressed wanting to discuss reconstruction at the time of cancer diagnosis. Half of the patients had attended another consultation, but the initial plastic surgeon either did not offer procedures for which these women were candidates or had prohibitively long surgical wait times.

CONCLUSION

Lack of information about reconstructive options at the time of cancer diagnosis and perceived access barriers to plastic surgeons may contribute to underutilization of IBR in Canada. Access to breast reconstruction can be improved by reducing inefficiencies in plastic surgery referrals.

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