The 'Difficult Conversations' About Delaying Breast Reconstruction Surgery During the COVID-19 Pandemic


Patients with breast cancer have come to terms that the risks of having reconstructive surgery at this time are too great, according to one expert.

When women receive a breast cancer diagnosis and hear that they will need a mastectomy — removal of one of both breasts — to treat their disease, many feel that they will be losing a part of their identity and look to schedule reconstructive plastic surgery to regain a part of that identity as soon as possible.

However, as the novel coronavirus has spread across the world, all elective surgeries, including breast reconstruction, have been delayed. And although many patients have been understanding about the delays, Dr. Jonathan Bank, a board-certified plastic surgeon at New York Breast Reconstruction and Aesthetic (NYBRA) Plastic Surgery, says it still has been a difficult conversation.

“For the most part, people have been very understanding,” Bank, who specializes in breast reconstruction after cancer, said in an interview with CURE® “No one is really blind to what is going on right now. It has been very stressful and saddening giving news to patients that they couldn't have surgery at this point; that's probably been one of the most difficult components for us, but they are all understanding. They know that in the balance of risks and benefits, the risks of having surgery at this point are too great.”

Bank said that even though surgeries have been delayed, he still has been communicating directly with patients either through text messaging or via phone calls to see how they are doing. Bank noted that not only has the open communication been helpful for his patients, but for him as well.

“I’ve been in medicine for 25 years ... and it's a huge part of my life, and not being able to do what I do is a little bit disorienting,” he said. “For me, it’s been very nice to provide remote consultations even though some things may be very theoretical at this point because … but I think just giving people some hope that there is a light at the end of yet another tunnel and we’re there at the other end hopefully.”

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