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Too Few Uninsured Women Get Info on Breast Reconstruction

THURSDAY, Sept. 22 (HealthDay News) -- Physicians fail to give information about breast reconstruction to more than half of uninsured women who have had mastectomies due to breast cancer, according to a new study.

Yet when women were given information about reconstruction, including referrals to plastic surgeons, the numbers that chose reconstruction went up significantly, the study authors found.

"Despite the clearly documented benefits of breast reconstruction after mastectomy, there has been an enormous disparity between rates of reconstruction for insured and uninsured American women," the study's co-author, Dr. Jamie Levine, said in a news release from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

"Private and government insurance are required to cover breast reconstruction for cancer patients. In spite of this, our research shows that many uninsured patients are being denied a key conversation about breast reconstruction that should take place at the time of diagnosis," Levine added.

The study is scheduled to be presented Sunday at the American Society of Plastic Surgeons' annual conference in Denver.

In the study of 54 uninsured women with breast cancer, researchers found that 52 percent knew nothing about breast reconstruction. After receiving information about their options for reconstruction, the percentage of uninsured women who chose to have reconstructive surgery jumped from 47 percent to 76 percent.

The increase was most dramatic in black women and Asian women.

"When uninsured patients were given the opportunity to understand what options were available to them, they chose reconstruction," said Levine. "These patients deserve the same right, as those insured, to make informed decisions about their bodies and health care. Patient education builds the kind of equality in patient care physicians strive for."

Because this study is being presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about breast reconstruction.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

SOURCE: American Society of Plastic Surgeons, news release, Sept. 22, 2011

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