Only a third of Counties Manukau women who have had a mastectomy are having reconstruction surgery, Middlemore Hospital's consultant plastic surgeon Meredith Simcock says.
"International data suggests that it should be twice that many women having the surgery," she says .
Middlemore does about 100 breast reconstruction surgeries each year.
Dr Simcock is worried women do not know they might be entitled to breast reconstruction surgery using the public system.
The first international breast reconstruction awareness day in New Zealand was held on Wednesday.
It is hoped the day will raise awareness of women with breast cancer who have had a mastectomy and their options to have breast reconstruction.
Not all women can have reconstruction surgery, but many do not follow through with it after they have had a mastectomy.
Radiation treatment can affect when reconstruction surgery can be done and what type of surgery a patient can have.
Dr Simcock says reconstruction surgery can hugely help women who have had cancer to regain their self-esteem.
"Mastectomy is a daily reminder for women of a very traumatic time in their lives and it can help hugely if breasts are restored to as near their natural state as possible," Dr Simcock says.
There are various options that women can consider for the reconstructive procedure but the most natural and long-lasting surgery can involve using tissue from the woman's own body, Dr Simcock says.
Other options involve using implants.
Recovery times also vary depending on the type of surgery.
Dr Simcock says breast reconstruction can be a much more satisfying option for many women who might be using an external prosthesis.
"The prosthesis can be inserted into a special bra but they do not move normally with the body and of course once the bra is off, the scars can be very evident."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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