‘The Complete Guide to Breast Reconstruction’ Author Empowers Patients With Information

Kathy Steligo has been keeping patients with breast cancer informed for more than 20 years. Steligo, a two-time breast cancer survivor, is the author of “The Complete Guide to Breast Reconstruction: Choosing the Best Options After Your Mastectomy.”

Originally released as “The Breast Reconstruction Guidebook: Issues and Answers from Research to Recovery,” Steligo’s book is now in its fifth edition, which was recently released via Johns Hopkins University Press.

Steligo, also the co-author of “Living with Hereditary Cancer Risk” and “The Breast Cancer Book,” spoke with CURE®’s “Cancer Horizons” podcast about the latest iteration of the book and her continuing efforts to empower patients with information.

“My whole goal in (writing) this book since 2001 for the first edition has always been to give women and men a comprehensive and objective guide to what their options are. I’m not pushing breast reconstruction. I’m not recommending people do one thing or the other. What I want women (and men) to know is what their options are and give them information so that they can make their own decisions.”

For example, in “The Complete Guide to Brest Reconstruction” Steligo offers insight into patients’ postmastectomy options — such as “going flat,” utilization of prostheses and reconstruction.

Read more: Many Women Are Satisfied After ‘Going Flat’ Post-Mastectomy, Study Finds

“I’m not a physician, but my opinion is anytime anybody is involved in a health decision, they need to advocate for themselves,” Steligo told CURE.

Kathy Steligo is the author of “The Complete Guide to Breast Reconstruction,” now in its fifth edition. Photo courtesy of Johns Hopkins University Press.

She explained that, in her opinion, “doctors are like anybody else — they’re like lawyers or gardeners (in that) they’re not all the same. … I talked to a lot of patients, and I know that sadly, a lot of surgeons do not talk to women about going flat. A lot of surgeons are still stuck on the issue of (thinking) all women want big boobs. And so therefore this is what patients tell me.”

Read more: Some Women With Breast Cancer Report Experiencing ‘Flat Denial’ From Surgeons Post-Mastectomy

Steligo said she advises patients to seek out at least two to three consultations, and explained her reasoning with an analogy.

“If you go in to buy a Ford and you go into a Ford dealer, he’s not going to tell you about the Chevy dealer down the street, or the Hyundai or whatever it is,” she said. “And you know, surgeons are no different. There are wonderful surgeons out there that will tell women all of their options and encourage them to get different opinions. But not all surgeons discuss going flat; not all surgeons discuss different options.

“Typically, surgeons will discuss in length the procedures that they do. They’re not as likely to discuss at length procedures that they don’t do. And that’s why I think women have to advocate and research and dig into information to really know what’s available to them, because I’ve had many patients tell me, ‘I had this surgery. I didn’t know until years later that I could have had something else, nobody told me.’ So you have to find out.”

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