Dr. Andrew Smith (www.orangecountybreastreconstruction.com) is on a mission to dispel myths about breast reconstruction and help empower women with an accurate picture of how federal law protects their rights. Dr. Smith, an Irvine area plastic surgeon who provides breast reconstruction for Newport Beach and Costa Mesa women, says there is often a serious lack of information for women facing mastectomy. He believes that proper education for patients and their families leads to better surgical choices.
“Unfortunately, an estimated 1 in 4 mastectomy patients is not told by her cancer surgeon that reconstruction is even an option. And many women are not informed that insurers are required to cover, at the very least, a good portion of the cost of the procedure,” Dr. Smith says. “I find that discouraging, and think that doctors have a responsibility to do better.”
Dr. Smith says that, without proper information, many Irvine and Newport Beach reconstructive breast surgery patients will make the mistake of thinking that reconstruction is a cosmetic procedure that would require spending money out-of-pocket. In reality, federal law stipulates that insurance plans covering mastectomy must also cover reconstruction, and it also requires insurers to pay for any steps necessary to balance the healthy breast with the reconstructed one. Dr. Smith aims to help patients understand how to exercise their rights by explaining the benefits of breast reconstruction and surgical options.
“Studies tell us that immediate reconstruction can have a significant psychological benefit because it minimizes the trauma of living without a breast. Even if it is performed months or years after a mastectomy, reconstruction still offers many benefits,” Dr. Smith says. “I can help patients with specific details like whether to choose reconstruction with breast implants or a ‘flap’ of their own tissue. We will also talk about nipple and areola reconstruction.”
Dr. Smith is committed to providing education about reconstructive options to women who have already undergone or are currently facing a mastectomy. However, he also recognizes that it’s important to inform patients’ families and friends, and even women who have never had a breast cancer diagnosis.
“Women have a 1 in 8 chance of developing breast cancer sometime in their lives, so there’s a high probability that it will affect each of us directly or through a loved one,” says Dr. Smith. “Although there’s no proven way for women to prevent breast cancer, there are things that they can do to empower themselves after a diagnosis.”