Amid the autumnal reds and yellows, October is also a month of pink ribbons in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Breast cancer affects millions of people every year. In fact, one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, which means that most of us have either known someone with breast cancer or been affected personally.
For people facing this challenging disease, there is hope. Treatment options continue to expand, and if detected early, most women will recover from breast cancer.
However, beating the disease is not always the end of the journey. After the emotional and physical challenges of a single or double mastectomy, many women choose reconstructive surgery, which can be restorative and life-affirming.
Why tissue donations are the key to breast reconstructive surgeries
Many women who choose breast reconstruction surgery have endured difficult treatments like chemotherapy and radiation. After the emotional and physical difficulties of that journey, reconstructive surgery may provide powerful closure and help restore a sense of wholeness. Having this option available is a critical part of the cancer treatment process.
What many people do not realize is that a significant percentage of breast reconstructions would not be possible without donor tissue. While donations of organs like kidneys, livers, hearts, and lungs are more familiar to most of us, tissue donations serve a very important role for a wide range of conditions and injuries.
For some breast cancer survivors who make the decision to undergo reconstructive surgery, tissue grafts from their own bodies can be used. For others, this is not possible, and an allograft from a tissue donor hero is required.
For Rebecca R., a family history of breast cancer and pancreatic cancer prompted her to undergo genetic testing. When Rebecca learned she was positive for a gene mutation that put her at an elevated risk of breast cancer, she opted for a preventative mastectomy, followed by breast reconstruction.
“I knew I wanted to have reconstruction because I wanted to look and feel like myself as much as possible on the other side of this,” she said.
One of the most exciting things about tissue donation is that one donor can have a massive impact on many patients in need. For example, just one tissue donor can help up to 10 breast reconstruction patients. Supporting breast cancer survivors is one of the many important reasons to become an organ and tissue donor today.
Breast Reconstruction Awareness (BRA) Day is October 18th
Celebrated during Breast Cancer Awareness month each year, Breast Reconstruction Awareness (BRA) Day takes place annually every third Wednesday in October. The goal of BRA Day is to increase awareness regarding the range of choices available to women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Not all women will opt for breast reconstruction, but it is critical that everyone facing breast cancer be aware of all available options.
Breast Reconstruction Awareness Day was first launched in 2011 and represents a collaborative effort between the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, The Plastic Surgery Foundation, plastic surgeons specializing in breast surgery, nurse navigators, corporate partners, and breast cancer support groups. Through the campaign, millions of people have been informed of breast reconstruction options following a mastectomy.
This BRA Day, you can help spread awareness about an important and little-known way to support breast cancer survivors: registering to become an organ and tissue donor. You never know who you might help through your life-giving gift, and someday, your yes could mean the world to someone recovering from cancer. Register to become an organ and tissue donor today.