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Reconstruction Shaming & Why It’s Not Okay

| December 8, 2016 August 2, 2023 | |

reconstruction shamingWomen in today’s world are, unfortunately, subjected to all types of shaming. Sometimes it is “Mommy Shaming” for the way they choose to feed their baby, how their baby sleeps, or whether they choose to work or stay at home. Other times it may be “body shaming” for how much they weigh or what they choose to wear. It would seem that no one would have the audacity to shame a woman who chooses to have breast reconstruction following a mastectomy, sadly, that is not the case.

The New York Times recently published an article titled “Going Flat After Breast Cancer” and a subsequent Op-Ed titled, “Saying No to Breast Reconstruction.”

Basically, both of these incredibly biased articles suggest women are being forced into the decision to have breast reconstruction by the medical community or social pressures. They insist breast reconstruction is unnecessarily and inherently risky, painstaking, and can never come close to resembling the native breasts. While I personally feel many of the details of the articles, such as complication rates, could definitely use some fact-checking. There is also an appalling lack of respect for the many dedicated and incredibly skilled surgeons who make it their life’s work to offer women breast reconstruction.

Always About Having Options

I think the biggest issue is shaming. These articles are shaming women who choose reconstruction by making their choice seem vain and uninformed.

Breast reconstruction should always be about having options. For many years, having aesthetically pleasing reconstruction was not always possible. Thankfully, the techniques have vastly improved and the results can be very good in terms of symmetry and appearance. Both of the New York Times pieces failed to mention autologous reconstruction.

DIEP flap and other flap procedures give patients reconstruction results that look and feel very natural. Having this type of reconstruction option would have alleviated many of the concerns raised by the article, such as infection rates and constant foreign body issues with the implants. Some women prefer the “perkier” look of implant-based reconstruction, and some women may feel comfortable choosing to go flat.

Many factors determine why each woman would want to have reconstruction or which type they are a good candidate for, the most important thing is having choices. The original article states “a reconstructed breast is often numb and can no longer play a role in sexual arousal. It often lacks a nipple…”

One woman is quoted saying she was horrified, “you don’t have nipples and you have scars everywhere.”

The women quoted in these articles must have visited with surgeons who are not very experienced in breast reconstruction. Any well-informed patient would know there are options for nipple reconstruction and even 3D tattoos that can make the reconstructed breasts appear quite normal. In some cases, nipple-sparing is even an option. I am absolutely amazed when I see the results of breasts that have been reconstructed by qualified surgeons.

When You Look Good, You Feel Good

The way I see it when you look good, you feel good. Some women feel better with a certain pair of shoes, hairstyle, clothing, or artistic expression and some feel better filling out a bra or certain top in a way that only breasts can do.

Having the desire for breast reconstruction following the loss of your natural breasts is not about trying to conform to what society sees as feminine, it is about what makes you feel whole.

I know, as a larger chested woman prior to mastectomy, I could not imagine how I would have felt if breast reconstruction was not an option for me. After a mastectomy, every woman wants to feel good and comfortable in or out of clothing.  No woman should be made to feel guilty about having surgery to accomplish these goals, if necessary.

About the Author

Katrina Smith is the Social Media Coordinator/ Patient Liaison at Midwest Breast and Aesthetic Surgery. She is a devoted wife and mother of four boys.
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*Our blog entries are written in order to further educate our patients and raise awareness towards topics related to plastic surgery. Any solutions offered on this blog are intended to help possible patients develop educated decisions before undergoing a consultation with our doctors.

2 thoughts on “Reconstruction Shaming & Why It’s Not Okay”

  • Kathy Petrozelli

    Ok, let me just say a few things here. Personal choice when it comes to this subject is extremely important. At first, I needed some hand holding to decide what to do. I chose my option because of my age. I felt that I didn’t want to be dealing with implant issues so diep was a good option for me. Believe me when I tell you it is horrifying to get a breast cancer diagnosis and I was petrified, but it was nice to wake up with my newly reconstructed breasts after my mastectomy. No one can tell I had any of this because they are really extremely natural looking. I just celebrated my 8th year anniversary and am very happy.

    Emotionally it was a good decision, the best decision, to have the reconstruction I had. I had diep. I am not all cut up with scars everywhere but rather you cannot see one scar because my doctor took his time to make sure that everything was tucked underneath where it cannot be seen. I had an ace when it comes to reconstructive surgeons. The hip to hip scar is barely noticeable. I am eight years out and my results are still amazing.

    One of the things I learned through the past eight years is that everyone has an opinion about things even if they don’t have a clue what they are talking about. I had an Aunt, who I was not particularly close with call me and tell me not to do this. What she did not know was that because of my family history I had an 87% chance of recurrence which was reduced to 5% after my surgeries. Also, a few other family members made light of what I decided to do as well, shaming, telling me that I was scaring my daughter. I am extremely happy with the results of my reconstruction. I feel that my plastic surgeon gave me a gift that I could never repay him for in a million years. He is skilled and kind and was very supportive of my decision to have diep. Because of him, I feel comfort in knowing that emotionally I look like other women without having to stuff a prosthesis in my bra.

    Things have come a long way. When I was about 17, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, in 1980. I remember asking her if she was going to get reconstructed. She was a very slight lady. Her response was she wasn’t going to pay $20k for size A breasts. Reconstruction was very new then and I understood where she was coming from, a matter of personal choice. Today for me, I was not doing without over money. The surgery is and was worth every penny to me for my emotional well being. I have had the best care. These are my feelings, not because you operated on me Dr. Patel, but this is what I think and feel. Thank you for your friendship and for your skill and for your kindness. I feel the magic is finding the right surgeon for reconstruction and I have certainly found the right guy, a doctor who cared enough about me to be particular with his work to make sure that I was happy with the end result. Keep doing what you are doing because I’m sure you’re making a huge difference for many ladies out there who have been dealt a very tough hand.

  • Jacquie O'Rourke

    Excellent post! I’ve been accused of being addicted to plastic surgery and shamed for my choices by the closest friends and family. All I want is some semblance of normalcy when I look in the mirror. I lost a close friend because when I told her I had BC and was having a mastectomy and reconstruction, her only response was, “Why are you having reconstruction?” I didn’t choose to have cancer. What gives anyone the right to opine about my choices afterwards?