A new study suggests that breast reconstruction patients were only moderately informed about the procedure, and had little knowledge about its complications.

In the study, published in the Annals of Surgery, researchers from the University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center surveyed 126 breast cancer patients planning to undergo mastectomy at the N.C. Cancer Hospital. They surveyed both women who planned to undergo reconstructive surgery after mastectomy, and also women who did not. Women were asked to answer general knowledge questions about reconstructive surgery as well as a question about complication risk, explains a media release from University of North Carolina Health Care System.

Among the respondents, their average knowledge score about breast reconstruction was 58.5%, which according to the researchers is considered moderate. Seventy percent of participants got at least 50% of the questions correct, the release continues.

“Patients should have at least a score of at least 50 percent, which means they know at least half of the important facts,” says Clara Lee, MD, a UNC Lineberger member and an associate professor in the UNC School of Medicine Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, in the release. “By that metric, patients did OK. But I do think that’s a pretty low bar for surgery that’s purely optional.”

Only 14.3% of respondents answered a question correctly about the risk of major complications, which the researchers consider low knowledge.

The survey also found that most participants, at 92%, discussed breast reconstruction with their providers, but more women reported discussing the advantages—at nearly 60%—than those who also discussed the disadvantages, at 27.8%, per the release.

“Breast reconstructive surgery can help a breast cancer survivor feel more whole and recover from the surgery,” Lee states in the release. “It has a great potential benefit, but it has to be considered alongside the disadvantages, including the risks of complications. And so our general conclusion after this study is not that breast reconstruction is good or bad, but that patients don’t fully understand it, and we need ways to improve that.”

[Source(s): University of North Carolina Health Care System, Science Daily]