“Your biopsy is positive for breast cancer.” These very words can send a chill through a woman’s spine like nothing else. Seven little words and your life is changed forever. The first thought, “Why me?” then come the myriad of questions: “Will I have to undergo chemo?”, “Will I lose my hair?” and the most important one-- “Will I lose my breast?”
Breast cancer is no urban myth. It’s the most common cause of cancer among women. In India, a whopping 20 to 25 percent of cancer cases in women are that of breast cancer. More disturbingly, according to an Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) projection, our country is expected to see a 41 percent increase in the incidence of breast cancer by 2020. Meaning 36,000 more women will develop the disease in just a decade.
And it’s not just the fairer sex that needs to worry about the disease. According to medical statistics, about 1 percent of men get breast cancer. Yes, this number is small, but the point here is not to think that you’re safe just because of your sex.
That was the bad news. Now for the good part. If you wage war against it, breast cancer can be beaten. But there will be casualties. The side effects will certainly take their toll. There’s the nausea, the fatigue, the hair loss, the pain, constipation and diarrhea that may result from the chemotherapy and radiation that you will undergo. But the scariest part is when you opt to undergo a mastectomy. What’s this? Simply put, it’s when a woman opts to undergo surgery to remove her breast or both her breasts.
Now, we women may moan and groan about our twin assets from time to time (they’re either too small or too big!!) but at the end of the day, they’re what define us as being a “woman” in the first place. We’ve turned to plastic surgery to enhance them and to tone them down, but never has the thought ever crossed our collective minds to get rid of them completely. We would rather lose a limb than “our girls”. And that’s what exactly a mastectomy is all about--,making the choice to live without our breast or breasts.
And this price exacted to beat breast cancer doesn’t come cheap. A mastectomy can lead to severe depression. Here’s how it goes. Women who undergo this surgery often see themselves as less physically attractive, less sexually desirable and start feeling ashamed of their body. As a result, their self-esteem takes a plunge, resulting in depression that may begin months after the surgery.
So what’s the way out? Plastic surgery, as it happens, has a wonderful answer in the form of breast reconstruction—something that a woman can opt for either at the time of the mastectomy itself, or at a later date. Your new breast can either be an implant made of silicone (think Pamela Anderson’s bosom) or can be created out by using tissues from your bell, back or bottom. And while the new breast will never function the way your real breast would have, it will make sure that physically at least, you won’t have to doubt your femininity. Unlike a padded bra that’ll bring back the loss of a breast when you take it off at night, your new breast is a permanent part of your body.
A number of medical studies agree that breast reconstruction really does wonders for a woman’s self-esteem. After all, it’s a simple equation. With two breasts, our bodies look the same, not only to people we meet, but also to ourselves.
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