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BRA Day Is Today: Here Are Some Breast Reconstruction Options

7:28 AM, Oct 17, 2012   |    comments
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WASHINGTON (WUSA) -- Wednesday, many breast cancer survivors are taking part in the nation's first ever Breast Reconstruction Awareness day or "BRA" DAY.

A majority of women having a mastectomy will choose immediate breast reconstruction as a way to get back to normal.

However, for those who don't and later change their minds, Buddy Check 9 wants you to know you still have reconstructive options whether your surgery was last month or 30 years ago.

Lillie Shockney is Administrative Director of the Avon Breast Care Center at Johns Hopkins. She's also a registered nurse and a two-time breast cancer survivor.

Lillie's mission is to help patients, who are often solely focused on survival, understand all of their surgical and reconstructive options.

Lillie told us, "Often times women do not bring up the issue of reconstruction.... I initiate that discussion."

Two decades ago, Lillie's surgeons discussed reconstruction but only to tell her she didn't qualify. A decade later she became part of the growing ranks of women who were able to choose what's known as delayed reconstruction. She credits a new class of drugs and a Marvin Gaye lyric for giving her back the gift of choice.

She shared, "The song was Sexual Healing. The first verse I heard was 'I can't wait for you to operate. I'm your medicine, let me in.' That's all I needed."

She chose the bi-lateral diep flap procedure.

"I would do it again in a heart beat. It was the best decision I ever made for myself," said Lillie.

Plastic Surgeon Dr. Michele Manahan says reclaiming your silhouette, even years later, can be the silver lining after a cancer diagnosis.

"A woman could consider either an implant based reconstruction or reconstruction using her own tissue even in an extremely delayed situation," said Dr. Manahan.

She added, "It may be a little different technique, the patterns of scarring may be different, but the same basic reconstruction techniques are available."

According to Lillie, "This is important for your psychological well being. We want you to go into the operating room with two breasts. We want you to come out with two breasts, two healthy breasts, and just leave the cancer behind with us."