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Going Flat: OptING out of reconstructive surgery following a mastectomy


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There's a video that's been circulating on social media over the past few weeks.

It features survivors of breast cancer. 

In the video, we see and hear from women who have opted not to have reconstructive surgery following a mastectomy. 

Their slogan? Having breasts is a choice, not a requirement. 

New York Times health reporter Roni Rabin saw this video and decided to look into this new movement of women who have a term for their decision - they call it "Going Flat".

Also on the panel to discuss reconstructive surgeries is Catherine Dang, a breast surgeon at Cedar's Sinai hospital in Los Angeles.

Interview highlight:

The typical approach after a mastectomy:

Dang: most patients after having a mastectomy, we usually refer them to a reconstructive plastic surgeon because it is covered by health insurance in the state of California. And we give them the option of whether to have a reconstruction or not. In this city, the majority of them do opt for reconstructive surgery. But some of them don't, as well. There are generally two types of reconstructive surgery. You can have implants, or you can have a autologous tissue transfer, where the doctor take fat and skin from the patients abdominal area or back muscles and transfer to the breast area to restore volume.

Reasons women decide to "go flat"

Rabin: there are two types of women and one of each is featured on the video (above). One woman considers herself more of a natural person. She doesn't want a lot of medical intervention; she tries to eat organic; she dresses simply. She just does not want something manmade in her body after getting cancer. She does not want more treatment. And reconstructive surgery is a series of protracted treatment, it's not a one-time thing. There was another woman in the video that came to this conclusion through a very different way. She went through an extensive period to get her implants, but after multiple cases of infection, she took the implants out. When she was offered the autologous option, she said it made her 'feel like a quilt - patched on from here to there.' 

On the pressure of getting reconstructive surgery

Rabin: It is the standard of care, and when you get breast cancer, that is offered as standard of care. Women do feel the pressure, because whenever you do something that's a little unconventional in medicine, there is a little bit of pressure. Physicians believe this improves the quality of life, but there is a research that there's no impact on the quality of life. 

Dang: I don't think there's a medical argument that women need reconstructive surgery to have quality of life. You do have a choice as a woman. Patients are happy on either side of the spectrum - having had reconstruction and not having had reconstruction. 


Click on the blue media player above to hear the full interview.