PROPHYLACTIC MASTECTOMY: HOW TO CHOOSE YOUR SURGEONS?

In the UK going private is the privilege of the rich and with a dad, and now a step mum as highly respected NHS Drs, not an option I would consider. Also, as much as everyone complains about the NHS, Brits don’t realise how lucky they are to have access to world class health care they don’t have to pay for.  But lucky or not, a free health service means you don’t get to choose your Drs. You may not like them, but you generally just go with it because Dr knows best.

In Australia however, unless you are going public, you get to choose your Drs. I found this fascinating at first. You mean I get to decide if this person gets to operate on me? But they have gazillion years of training and letters after their name, surly they know better than me? Who am I to decide?

But decide you can, so I thought it would be useful to put down a few bits of advice on how to find, and choose your surgeons to conduct your prophylactic mastectomy.

Location, Location, Location

I had some constraints in terms of who I could interview or audition for the role of chopping off and building my new tits. As my insurance covered me as a private patient in a public hospital, I had to find surgeons who operated in the public system. Not all of them do? Some of them only do private – so that was my first filter.  And it may sound stupidly obvious, but do they operate in the hospital you want to be operated in?  You may have heard about the best surgeon in the world, but if it’s Pete from The Real Housewives of Orange County, he’s probably not going to be much use to you if you live in Sydney.

Who does your hair?

If you want to find a good hairdresser, ask someone with good hair. If you want to find good surgeons, ask someone who likes their reconstructed boobs. And reconstructed is the key. Your mate, Gina, may have the best fake boobs, but if her surgeon doesn’t have any experience in building them from scratch, they are unlikely to be the one for you.

Wherever you live, there are lots of forums and support groups for high risk women considering prophylactic surgery.  Asking these women to recommend good surgeons is probably a great way to find good people and feel reassured that they have done a good job of this, at least once before.

In Australia Pink Hope have private forums on Facebook for the different states. Other forums on Facebook include Previvors, Young Previvors, Prophylactic Mastectomy and BRCA sisterhood. Aussies are pretty conservative and their chat is mostly chat, however the US groups are a bit more open and they may even show you pictures of their reconstructed boobs to prove how good they are. But you may want to decide whether you want to do this pre-op. However good they might be, they will look reconstructed and you may not be ready to face that before you go under the knife.

Respected colleagues

Another way to find good surgeons is through recommendations from other surgeons. I spoke to surgeons who I couldn’t go with because they only operated in private hospitals, but they recommended surgeons, who they rated, who fitted my insurance constraints.

Working together

Strangely, my step mother is a breast surgeon. Would I have wanted her to operate on me – no – a little close to home – but she was able to give me a great piece of advice in choosing surgeons. You want to a breast and a plastic surgeon that are experienced in working together, as a team. When the breast surgeon has done his thing he needs to seamlessly high five the plastic surgeon on his way in. They also need to be able to communicate with each other in your recovery so, you may have found an amazing breast surgeon, but if he has never met your plastic surgeon before, you may want to reconsider if he or she is the right choice for you.

Practice makes perfect

You may have found your ideal surgeon, but you want to do straight to implant and they’ve only done the procedure a handful of times in their career. Once you know what surgery you want, ask your surgeons how experienced they are in it. Surgeons have their specialities in certain procedures and will naturally lean towards conducting these so you also need to be careful that you don’t get pushed into a procedure you don’t want to do. If you want nipple sparing and your breast surgeon is pushing you to remove your nipples (or vice versa), it might be because this is what they are most confident and practiced in. Don’t feel pressured into changing your mind because it’s what your surgeon wants to do, not what you want to do.

Oooh sometimes, I get a good feeling

You don’t have to like your surgeon, but you have to trust them and feel as though they are the right people for you. Do you feel comfortable asking them what you need to ask? Do they answer you honestly? Do they do what they say they’re going to do? Are they clear? Are they responsive?

In short – do you feel like they are the right surgeons for you?  If your gut says no, trust it.  It doesn’t mean they aren’t great surgeons and they may be the ideal choice for someone else, but that doesn’t matter. This is very much all about you, so have faith in your judgement and you can be confident in making the right choice.

Let me know if anyone has any other suggestions for finding the perfect breast and plastic surgeons for your prophylactic mastectomy?