Each year, more than 230,000 new breast cancer cases are diagnosed in the United States. In terms of treatment options, many women choose to undergo a double mastectomy, but less than a quarter of those women are aware of their reconstruction options.
Breast Reconstruction Awareness Day, or BRA Day, was established nationally four years ago, and Carolyn De La Cruz, M.D., championed the cause locally in Pittsburgh with the support of the Department of Plastic Surgery and Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC. As an assistant professor of plastic surgery at the University of Pittsburgh, Dr. De La Cruz specializes in breast reconstruction, so the cause is close to her heart.
The annual event at the Andy Warhol Museum on Pittsburgh’s North Side combines beautiful art, delicious food and a fun atmosphere. The major highlight of the evening is the art show, which featured 16 mannequins rendered by local artists in support of BRA Day. Each one depicts an artist’s individual perspective on the journey women take to breast reconstruction. The mannequins were sold in a silent auction, and the proceeds support breast reconstruction awareness initiatives.
Since the BRA Day initiative began in 2012, Dr. De La Cruz has been commissioning the mannequins.
“I originally went to the post-mastectomy boutique to see the bras.. “As I was in the store, I realized it’s not the bra but the woman behind it. The mannequins represent every woman as a blank canvas.”
One artist, Pat Miller, has been an annual contributor to BRA Day. She is a breast cancer survivor who underwent reconstructive surgery herself after beating cancer a second time. “To look down at myself and feel normal was the best feeling,” Miller said to BRA Day guests.
Dr. De La Cruz is looking to expand to other media beyond mannequins and increase BRA Day’s reach through collaborations with other local art groups. Several local artists have already expressed interest. For more information about this year’s event and the participating artists, visit the BRA Day website.