The number of women who opt for breast reconstruction after mastectomy has skyrocketed 65 percent in five years.
According to a report published Tuesday by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the rate of women 18 and older opting for breast reconstruction from 2009 to 2014 increased from 21.7 per 100,000 to 35.1 per 100,000.
Though the report doesn’t explain the reason behind the trend, Anne Elixhauser, senior scientist at AHRQ and coauthor of the paper, says a number of factors may be influencing why more women are undergoing the surgery after breast cancer treatment. They include policy changes for health insurance companies that now mandate coverage, improvements in the procedure itself and increased awareness about the disease. Others argue the trend is partially driven by public figures such as Angelina Jolie, who in 2013 spoke out candidly about her decision to undergo prophylactic mastectomy and reconstructive surgery after learning she is a carrier for the BRCA gene mutations that significantly increase her risk for the disease.
The new report finds the popularity of the surgery increased in women of all age groups, but primarily in those older than 65. From 2009 to 2014, the number of seniors opting for reconstructive surgery surged by 140 percent. That finding may also reflect the reality that breast cancer primarily strikes women in later years of life.
The researchers also found that breast reconstructive surgery was more popular in women living in urban areas compared with women in rural areas. “This may be an issue of the lack of access to facilities that perform reconstructive surgeries for women in rural locations,” Elixhauser told Newsweek.
It is now also far easier to undergo breast reconstruction, which is increasingly available on an outpatient basis. By shortening the recovery time from the surgery, women are much more likely to choose it. The report found there was a 150-percent increase in reconstruction surgeries performed in hospital-based ambulatory surgery centers on an outpatient basis. Breast reconstructions in ambulatory outpatient facilities increased from 7 per 100,000 women in 2009 to 18 per 100,000 in 2014. However, the rate of women undergoing breast reconstruction on an inpatient basis remained unchanged over the time period: 7 per 100,000.