May 01, 2019

Breast reconstruction

Making decisions

You've been diagnosed with breast cancer and your doctors are saying that a mastectomy is needed. In the swirl of thoughts and emotions over the subsequent few days, you realize that no one on your care team brought up the topic of breast reconstruction. You wonder if, at age 70, you may simply be too old to have it done.

It's commonly assumed that with advanced age breast reconstruction after mastectomy becomes less desirable, feasible or safe. These assumptions are not useful and are often false.

Deciding on breast cancer reconstruction is an individual choice. Some women don't have reconstruction and are content with the choice. Others feel that reconstruction is an integral part of regaining femininity or a sense of being whole again.

If you opt for reconstruction, you'll face a number of complex choices. It's best to think of reconstruction as a process, not a one-and-done procedure. It's a challenging situation, but older women don't need to close off the option of reconstruction solely due to their age.

Common assumptions

Research has shown that women's attitudes toward breasts and body image don't dramatically change with age. Put another way, it's likely that older women have similar rates of desire for breast reconstruction as do younger women.

Age alone doesn't significantly increase risk with breast reconstruction. Rather, health status is the main driver of risk. Quality-of-life improvements after breast reconstruction are similar in older and younger women.

Regardless of your age, decisions regarding breast reconstruction are often complex, and often come when...