Raising awareness of breast reconstructive surgery on BRA Day

presentation in front of an audience

On October 15, the message was simple – breast reconstruction is safe, covered by OHIP and can make a tremendous difference in the life of someone who has undergone a mastectomy. Osler recognized the fourth annual, national Breast Reconstruction Awareness (BRA) Day, by hosting an education session at Woodbine Mall to provide women with information about breast cancer and the breast reconstruction options that are available at our hospital.

Three of the hospital’s renowned breast reconstruction and plastic surgeons – Dr. Nicolas Guay, Corporate Chief of Surgery, Dr. Christine Tang, Plastic Surgeon, and Dr. Roberta Minna, General Surgeon – hosted the session, along with two cancer survivors who underwent reconstructive surgery at Osler.

“Reconstruction is a very personal choice for all women. You have to consider what type of reconstruction to have, when to have it, and even if you should have it at all,” Karen Portelli, a former patient, told the crowd. “You have to learn about every option that is available to you in order to make an informed decision,” she added.

After battling several reoccurrences of breast cancer, Karen opted to have a double mastectomy, but did not have reconstructive surgery until many years later. She was grateful for the care she received from Dr. Minna and Dr. Tang, who worked on providing her with all of the information and support she needed.

“It wasn't till I had reconstruction surgery that I felt I had come full circle,” said Karen. “The loop was closed and for the first time in a long time, I actually felt whole again. In was in that moment my dignity was restored, a dignity I didn`t even realize I`d lost,” Karen added.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among Canadian women, affecting one in nine women during their lifetime. BRA Day aims to create awareness and educate women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer or had a mastectomy about the options that are available to them.

Osler offers patients a range of post-cancer breast reconstruction options and is working to decrease wait times for these surgeries. Osler’s breast reconstruction surgeons work with various departments, including Oncology, Pathology, and Ambulatory Care to provide patients with even more support and faster service.

“Losing a breast can be physically and emotionally challenging and it is important for women to understand that we can reconstruct the breast,” said Dr. Tang. “Reconstructive breast surgery can significantly improve a woman’s quality of life by restoring her physically, returning her sense of femininity and self-confidence that breast cancer may have taken away."