Few Breast Cancer Patients Understand Surgery Options

SAN FRANCISCO, May 15, 2013 — Studies have shown nearly 70 percent of patients with breast cancer do not discuss all surgical options with their surgeon before their initial surgery and that such a discussion significantly affects a woman’s treatment decision1.  To address this knowledge gap, the Search, Share, Spare campaign launched today to raise awareness about surgery options that spare a woman’s breast while effectively removing cancer.  The campaign encourages women facing breast cancer surgery to visit breastcancersurgeryoptions.com to search for information, share what they learn and spare their breast.

“More than 225,000 American women each year are diagnosed with breast cancer that requires surgery.  Unfortunately, few women are aware that surgical advances now enable doctors to effectively remove cancer while sparing the skin and often the nipple, resulting in a more natural-looking reconstructed breast,” said Dr. Rache Simmons, chief of breast surgery at New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center and past president of the American Society of Breast Surgeons.  Dr. Simmons is nationally recognized for her innovations and contributions in the field of minimally invasive breast cancer surgery.  ”The Search, Share, Spare campaign educates women about all their surgical options, including skin-sparing mastectomy and nipple-sparing mastectomy.  Armed with this information, a woman can talk with her team of doctors to make an informed decision about what is right for her.”

Dr. Simmons will hold a media briefing Thursday, May 16 about mastectomy myths and realities, skin-sparing and nipple-sparing surgery techniques, and questions to ask a doctor if you’re newly diagnosed with breast cancer and facing surgery. A Twitter chat will take place concurrently at #breastchatS3. [Editorial note: Reporters interested in the briefing should contact nerissas@ca.rr.com for details.]

Dr. Simmons is joined by other notable breast surgeons nationally in calling for more awareness about breast cancer surgery techniques.  Many women may be candidates for a minimally invasive procedure, but it is critical that they discuss their options with a knowledgeable surgeon.  Women facing a breast cancer diagnosis may benefit from asking the following questions:

  • What type of cancer do I have and how serious is it?
  • What are my surgical options, and why?
  • Am I a candidate for skin-sparing or nipple-sparing mastectomy?
  • Is the cancer recurrence rate the same with skin-sparing or nipple-sparing mastectomy compared to a simple mastectomy?
  • After reconstruction will both of my breasts look the same?

Breast cancer survivor stories on the campaign website underscore the importance of a woman being fully informed and active in her treatment plan.  Leslie Green, who does not have the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation, was 40 when she had her first mammogram, which resulted in the diagnosis of breast cancer.  Working closely with her doctor, Leslie determined that a double mastectomy using a nipple-sparing technique was the best surgical option for her.

“I was fortunate to be a candidate for a nipple-sparing surgery, and I’ve been able to embrace life after cancer.  A big part of that was, of course, knowing the cancer was gone, but in order to remove the cancer, the breast tissue was also removed — by sparing the nipples, I looked like “the old me” from day one,” said Leslie, who will be cancer free two years this fall.  “I have been able to move on after my surgery because when I look in the mirror, I see the ‘me’ before cancer — my breasts, even my nipples. For someone trying to recover and heal physically, as well as emotionally, keeping her body image in tact as much as possible is huge.”

The Search, Share, Spare campaign is sponsored by Invuity, a medical device company.  Invuity develops and markets advanced illuminated surgical instruments that improve access and visualization in tight operative spaces enabling minimally invasive surgery procedures.

“We launched the Search, Share, Spare campaign because it is essential to provide information to women facing a difficult decision about surgery options,” said Philip Sawyer, CEO of Invuity. “Breast surgeons tell us every day that our Eigr illumination technology helps them do what they need to do.  It is gratifying to know that our technology plays a role in helping women beat breast cancer while achieving optimal breast aesthetics after reconstruction.”

Follow the Search, Share, Spare campaign on Twitter @BreastCancerS3.