“I think I might have been the first person to bring some of the newer techniques, which I think now are commonplace,” she said.
In the early 1990s, Shafer helped start a breast cancer center at Salem Hospital. And in late 1998, she was an advocate for legislation that ensured health insurance agencies would pay for breast reconstruction.
“It’s always been one of my favorite areas,” said Shafer, who called her work with breast cancer patients gratifying. “I like taking care of these women because it’s obviously a critical time period in their lives, but I can offer them a silver lining.”
Shafer explained that after a patient is diagnosed with breast cancer, she sees them as soon as possible.
“I try to see them within a couple of days because there’s so many questions and confusion and concerns,” she said.
The consultation is a long discussion, she said, in which she explains the procedures, shows the patients photographs of her previous work and goes over options for implants.
“I do a lot of drawing in my consultations,” Shafer said, including drawing for the patient what the scars will look like. “Almost universally, people are much more relaxed by the time they leave and realize it’s not as frightening a thing.”
The biggest concern a breast cancer patient has?
“Getting rid of the cancer, of course,” she said. “And then it’s like, what are they going to look like afterwards.”
That’s where photographs and drawings help.
“I think that, in showing people what they can look like afterwards, giving them a lot of different examples, it’s reassuring to people that the reconstruction results can be pretty good these days.”
Shafer said she does her best to complete her reconstruction work immediately after the mastectomy, so the patient only has to endure one surgery.