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Breast cancer patients in England face delays to reconstruction surgery

Women waiting for breast reconstruction surgery on the NHS in England face a “postcode lottery” of care, with some forced to wait more than three years, a damning report warns.

Two in five women (40%) waiting for breast reconstruction during the pandemic after having their breasts removed due to cancer faced a delay of 24 months or longer, according to research involving 1,246 women who either underwent reconstruction surgery or were waiting for it.

The report by charity Breast Cancer Now also warned that some breast reconstruction services are still not operating at full capacity after temporarily pausing at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

It says there was a 34% drop in breast reconstruction activity in England in 2021-22 compared with 2018-19. The charity added that on top of the delays, women face a “postcode lottery” of care, with some women offered certain types of reconstruction while others are denied the same operation.

Breast Cancer Now called on NHS England to develop a plan to address the backlog of breast reconstruction services.

One woman told the authors of the report she waited for three and a half years for breast reconstruction surgery, while another said she “wants to move on with my life” but has no idea when her surgery will go ahead.

Baroness Delyth Morgan, the chief executive of Breast Cancer Now, said: “For women who choose breast reconstruction, it is a core component of their recovery – far from a solely aesthetic choice, this is the reconstruction of their body and indeed their identity after they have been unravelled by breast cancer treatment and surgery.

“We hear of patients affected by delays to reconstruction surgery and the significant emotional impact this has on them, including altered body confidence, loss of self-esteem and identity, anxiety and depression, and hindering their ability to move forward with their lives, knowing their treatment is incomplete."

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Source: The Guardian, 19 October 2022


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