BUDDY CHECK 6: Breast cancer survivors offer unique show-n-tell to help patients

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – To rid their bodies of breast cancer, some women must decide whether to have one or both breasts removed. They can choose to live without them or have them rebuilt, but it’s not an easy decision.

This month, breast cancer survivors across the country will volunteer for a unique show-n-tell to help patients with this difficult choice. It’s called National Reconstruction Awareness Day or National BRA Day.

Sonya Forrest was only 30-years-old when she had to make that decision. Forrest found a lump and was aware of her strong family history of cancer, and she chose to have both her breasts removed.

“If I was going to do it, I didn’t want to do one breast and then five years down the road a year down the road go through it all again,” says Forrest.

But she had one more decision to make: whether to have reconstructive surgery after. “I wanted to do it all at once and get on with my life,” says Forrest.

Dr. Jim Pellicane, a breast surgeon with the Virginia Breast Center, says the time to consider breast reconstruction is when you are diagnosed.

But a new survey from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons shows most women struggle with the decision to have breast reconstruction surgery. It found 89 percent of patients would rather see what reconstruction results might look like on a real person, before deciding.

“It doesn’t surprise me,” says Dr. Pellicane. “You wouldn`t buy a car without driving it or looking at it first. Why would you agree to have reconstruction surgery without seeing some of the results?”

Most plastic surgeons show their patients pictures of their other patients results. But Forrest says the survey confirms what she felt while considering her options. She wished she could have seen another woman`s results in person.

Forrest now does that for other mastectomy patients.

She says she`s modeled her results several times and answered questions for women in the seven years since her surgery. “You definitely look different,” says Forrest. “I think it gives them a more realistic approach to the whole surgery and reconstruction.”

Forrest says she`s happy she can help other women so they can feel good about their results, too.

Many survivors like Forrest are volunteering to show and talk about their reconstruction experience at the first-ever Breast Reconstruction Awareness Day or National BRA Day, Oct. 17.

Click here for a link to National BRA Day website.

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