Today is BRA Day!

Replacement therapy

By Jayne MacAulay

Wednesday, October 19th is BRA Day. And no, silly – it’s not a celebration of frilly contraptions that house human mammaries. BRA stands for Breast Reconstruction Day.

Plastic and reconstructive surgeons – and others such as the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation and breast cancer support groups whose members include women who have had breast reconstruction – want women to know that breast reconstruction is available after mastectomy or lumpectomy surgery. Here in Canada, it’s a fully insured medical service.

But women may be so focused on surviving cancer that they don’t think about the possibility of restoring a breast. In fact, in 2010, nearly 45,000 mastectomies were performed in Canada yet only about eight per cent of the women took advantage of breast reconstruction.

Reconstructive surgery doesn’t compromise breast cancer treatment or ongoing surveillance for recurrence. It can be done later – even years after the breast cancer surgery – but women faced with a diagnosis of breast cancer owe it to themselves to ask for a referral to a plastic surgeon to talk about options. Often the reconstruction can start along with the cancer surgery.

Results are reassuring. Surgeons strive for a natural appearance and symmetry with a remaining breast. Techniques used depend on each patient’s unique need. Implants to restore breast shape can be silicone, saline or the patient’s own tissue; nipples can be constructed and the areola around the nipple coloured by tattooing. Women feel confident again wearing bathing suits!

The “new” breast will likely lack some sensitivity because nerve tissue is taken when the diseased breast is removed. “Some women report that some feeling comes back,” says Dr.Mitchell Brown, the Toronto-based plastic surgeon who initiated BRA Day. He cautions that patients must always be careful with heating pads and so on, to prevent burns.

He wants women to be aware that reconstruction is available and may have practical and emotional benefits, such as enhancing self-esteem. “Most women have the surgery for themselves,” he notes. “If a woman appears to be doing it for someone else – her partner – I encourage her to postpone it.”

For more information about breast reconstruction, check out