Post-mastectomy breast reconstruction: reducing the disparity through educational outreach to the underserved

Support Care Cancer. 2021 Feb;29(2):1055-1063. doi: 10.1007/s00520-020-05589-5. Epub 2020 Jun 26.


Purpose: Poor health literacy and awareness are thought to be some of the major contributors to existing racial/ethnic disparities in access to breast reconstruction after mastectomy. This study aimed to determine whether physician led, community-based educational symposium improves understanding of breast cancer care and breast reconstruction in underserved populations.

Methods: Annual educational symposiums were held between 2017 and 2019 in underserved communities in the greater Philadelphia area. The symposium consisted of a series of short lectures on breast health, cancer screening, surgical management and reconstruction, patient testimonials, a Q&A panel, and an exhibitor fair. Attendees were given pre- and post-symposium surveys that evaluated knowledge of breast cancer care and reconstruction on a 0-100 scale based on percentage of correct answers.

Results: Of 169 individuals, 92%, 91%, and 83% completed pre-symposium, post-symposium, and both surveys, respectively. Median age was 60 years, and 92% were Black. Knowledge/understanding survey scores significantly improved after the symposium (50 vs. 87, p < 0.01). Of all respondents, 92% found the symposium to be useful, 89% were introduced to resources that they were not previously aware of, 90% would recommend the symposium to others, and 91% would pass along the information they learned.

Conclusion: This study presents an effective and reproducible strategy to increase community awareness and understanding of general breast cancer concepts and breast reconstruction options. Through community outreach and education, physicians can help underserved populations have a better understanding of their potential options for breast reconstruction and ultimately reduce this well documented but inadequately addressed disparity in cancer care.

Keywords: Awareness; Breast reconstruction; Cancer; Community outreach; Disparities.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Breast Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Early Detection of Cancer
  • Female
  • Healthcare Disparities
  • Humans
  • Mammaplasty / education*
  • Mammaplasty / methods*
  • Mastectomy / methods*
  • Middle Aged
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Vulnerable Populations