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Breast Reconstruction Project

In 2010–2011, BCNA undertook a project to investigate issues relating to breast reconstruction after mastectomy for breast cancer. In particular, we wanted to learn about:

  • Barriers which reduce women’s access to breast reconstruction surgery
  • Women’s satisfaction with the outcome of their breast reconstruction surgery

BCNA’s Breast Reconstruction Project was prompted by anecdotal reports we had received from women over a number of years about long waiting times for breast reconstruction in the public health system (up to 10 years was reported in some states), and high out-of-pocket costs for surgery in the private system.

The project comprised a number of pieces of work, including:

  • A background paper
  • An online survey of women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer
  •  A telephone survey of selected breast cancer support group coordinators
  • A hard-copy survey of women attending BCNA’s 2011 Sunshine Coast Forum
  • An online survey of breast care nurses

The findings did not support the anecdotal evidence we had received of very long public hospital waiting list times (up to 10 years). We found that most women are able to access delayed breast reconstruction through the public hospital system within two years of being placed on a waiting list.

Other key findings of the project included:

  • Most women who had not had breast reconstruction surgery said this was because they had decided not to have it (i.e. they did not want it)
  • Few women reported long public hospital waiting lists as a reason not to have breast reconstruction surgery
  • There can be substantial out-of-pocket costs for women having breast reconstruction surgery in the private system, with 40% of women reporting an out-of-pocket cost to them of more than $5,000
  • A high proportion of women are satisfied with the outcome of their breast reconstruction surgery
  • Comprehensive information should be available to women about their options for breast reconstruction prior to their breast cancer surgery

The findings and outcomes of this project have been summarised in our Breast Reconstruction Project Report, which you can download below.

Acknowledgements

BCNA thanks all those who participated in this project. In particular, we thank the women and breast care nurses who shared their experiences with us, completed our surveys and provided feedback and information about breast reconstruction services in their area.

We also thank Cancer Australia for providing funding to BCNA to undertake this work.

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