Background: Although breast reconstruction provides some advantages for women following mastectomy, few Australian breast cancer patients currently receive reconstruction. In Australia, the routine provision of breast reconstruction will require the development of specific health service delivery models. The present paper reports an analysis of the provision of breast reconstruction in eight sites in Australia.
Methods: A semi-structured telephone interview was conducted with 10 surgeons offering breast reconstruction as part of their practice, including nine breast or general surgeons and one plastic surgeon.
Results: Surgeons reported offering breast reconstruction to all women facing mastectomy; the proportion of women deciding to have breast reconstruction varied between sites with up to 50% of women having a reconstruction at some sites. Most sites offered three types of reconstruction. Two pathways emerged: either the breast surgeon performed the breast surgery in a team with the plastic surgeon who undertook the breast reconstruction or the breast surgeon provided both the breast surgery and the reconstruction. Considerable waiting times for breast reconstruction were reported in the public sector particularly for delayed reconstruction. Surgeons reported receiving training in breast reconstruction from plastic surgeons or from a breast surgery team that performed reconstructions; a number had been trained overseas. No audits of breast reconstruction were being undertaken.
Conclusions: Breast reconstruction can be offered on a routine basis in Australia in both the private and public sectors. Women may be more readily able to access breast reconstruction when it is provided by a breast surgeon alone, but the range of reconstruction options may be more limited. If access to breast reconstruction is to be increased, there will be a need to: (i) develop effective models for the rural sector taking account of the lack of plastic surgeons; (ii) address waiting times for reconstruction surgery in the public sector; (iii) review costs to women in the private sector; (iv) develop a better understanding of women's views and how best to communicate about breast reconstruction; and (v) improve training in breast reconstruction.