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Swain, Tully Bill to Provide Breast Cancer Patients Access to Information on Reconstructive Surgery in General Hospitals Clears Panel

(TRENTON) – Apprising patients undergoing breast cancer surgery of the risks and benefits of breast reconstruction, a bill sponsored by Assembly members Lisa Swain and Chris Tully was approved by the Assembly Health Committee on Monday.

Swain and Tully sponsored this legislation (A-4378) to ensure women understand the benefits and risks of reconstructive surgery, and most importantly, to be aware they have choices and know their options.

“For women diagnosed with breast cancer treatment options, life changes and emotional stress can be overwhelming. Many do not even consider what can be done to restore their quality of life until after treatment,” said Swain (D-Bergen, Passaic). “This bill helps women to know all of their options, including reconstructive surgery, and make the best possible decisions for their medical needs.”

About 40% of women who undergo a mastectomy have breast reconstruction surgery, according to 2014 data from the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

“This legislation is about helping patients restore their quality of life by knowing their options and the risks and benefits associated with them,” said Tully (D-Bergen, Passaic). “Learning that you have breast cancer is life-changing; completely understanding your course of treatment including restorative surgery will help someone rebuild their life after breast cancer.”

The bill would require each general hospital licensed in the State that provides surgical services for the treatment of breast cancer, the breast cancer gene, or other breast abnormality, including, but not limited to, mastectomy surgery, lymph node dissection, or lumpectomy, to ensure that each patient receiving treatment for breast cancer is provided with written notice of:

  • the patient’s right to seek a consultation with a board-certified or board-eligible plastic surgeon of the patient’s choosing who provides breast reconstructive services concerning the patient’s treatment options during and after the provision of surgical services; this would include the use of a prosthesis and the option of undergoing reconstructive surgery during or after the provision of surgical services for the treatment of breast cancer, the breast cancer gene, or other breast abnormality;
  • the patient’s right to obtain reconstructive surgery from a board-certified or board-eligible plastic surgeon who provides breast reconstructive services, regardless of whether the plastic surgeon is affiliated with the general hospital or a health care provider network; and
  • the availability of coverage under a health benefits plan for reconstructive surgery.

There are two main options for breast reconstruction. One is artificial implants filled with saline or silicone gel. Another option is flap surgery, also called autologous reconstruction, which uses a woman’s own tissue often from the abdomen. Breast reconstruction can be done immediately after mastectomy surgery or as a second surgery.

The measure will now go to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.