CROSSVILLE (WATE) - Seven out of 10 women are unaware of their breast reconstruction options following mastectomy for breast cancer.
This year, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons has organized the first "BRA" Day in the United States. BRA stands for "Breast Reconstruction Awareness."
The goal of BRA Day is to increase women's awareness of their options for reconstructive surgery.
Tammy Kennedy, a high school teacher, wife, and mother of two who lives in the Crossville area, is only 42 years old. She learned she had breast cancer through her first mammogram two years ago.
Tammy remembers, "I was very surprised when I got the letter that said, yes, it's a concern."
Tammy traveled more than an hour to receive medical help in Knoxville. Like a lot of breast cancer patients, Tammy had a double mastectomy, followed by chemotherapy and radiation.
Unlike 70 percent of women in her position, Tammy was told by her doctor that her insurance would cover the cost of reconstructing her breasts.
This news gave Tammy a glimmer of hope for a more normal appearance following her cancer battle.
As Tammy puts it, "It really helps your self-esteem."
The Women's Health and Cancer Rights Act, passed in 1998, mandates that patients' insurance companies cover all costs involving breast reconstruction surgery. That includes things like breast prosthetics, lymphodema treatment, and more.
"It streamlines the process that, prior to that, could become a fight with insurance companies about 'are we going to cover this reconstruction or not?' and because of this federal law, they really don't have a choice in it. I think it's critical, " said Dr. Joseph Chun, a plastic surgeon in Knoxville.
Dr. Chun agrees the number of women who are not informed of their options by their doctors is shocking. Part of the problem, Dr. Chun says, is proximity to larger medical centers where breast reconstructive surgeries are performed, as well as a lack of plastic surgeons in smaller areas.
That's why Dr. Chun is among other members of the ASPS to organize and promote the first BRA Day USA.
"It's a much less scary experience to have the breast removed, knowing that patients can be put back together again, patients can be reconstructed," he said.
This year, singer Jewel is spokesperson for BRA Day events.
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