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Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Time to Take Action

October is the ideal month to help push The Breast Cancer Patient Equity Act in order to make Medicare start funding custom breast prostheses for post-mastectomy patients.

It’s October! While we associate this month with everything pumpkin spice, caramel apples, cider and anything cozy, it’s also time to think pink. After all, October is Breast Cancer Awareness month.

While the primary focus of Breast Cancer Awareness is about raising awareness for the disease, early detection, treatment, and finding a cure, we’d also like to focus on all of the amazing breast cancer survivors and making sure they have all of the options available to them following a mastectomy.

An estimated 268,600 women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer by the end of 2019, which is more than lung, colon and uterine cancer combined. Of that diagnosed population, 144,000 women will undergo a mastectomy. Following a mastectomy, women currently have four options: reconstruction, go flat, wear an off-the-shelf prosthesis, and custom breast prosthesis. However, not all of these are an option for women. Most notably, Medicare does not cover custom breast prostheses.

Re-Introduced Legislation

However, there is hope: The Breast Cancer Patient Equity Act, S. 562/H.R. 1370 has been re-introduced into Congress. This bicameral, bipartisan bill will require Medicare to recognize custom breast prosthesis as an eligible benefit after mastectomy surgery.

With the current options, we know some women are not candidates for reconstructive surgery due to a variety of medical reasons, and others choose not to undergo reconstructive surgery. For many women, an off-the-shelf prosthetic that fits inside a pocketed mastectomy bra is the best option; however, there are limitations. Some of those considerations are:

  • Chest wall contour — If a patient doesn’t have a flat chest wall after a mastectomy, an off-the-shelf prosthetic may not fit well
  • Matching skin tone — Off-the-shelf prosthetics usually only come in two skin colors. Custom breast prostheses come in more than 36 skin colors
  • Finding symmetry following a unilateral mastectomy (one breast removed) is a challenge — A custom prosthetic can be created to match her profile to keep symmetry. Finding an off-the-shelf prosthetic to match an existing breast is difficult.

Allowing women to choose the outcome that best meets their needs will be beneficial for the road to recovery and moving forward.

The Breast Cancer Patient Equity Act is about making sure women have the appropriate choices after mastectomy surgery. The breast is one of the few body parts not covered by Medicare as a custom replacement — we should be able to do better. Many private insurance companies follow Medicare guidelines; that’s why this legislation is so important. Women of all ages and insurance coverage will be impacted.

As of writing this post, there are 34 House members who have signed on in support and four senators. To move this bill forward, we need to have at least 218 House members and 51 senators, which represents a majority in each chamber.

Here’s What You Can Do

What we need now is for people like you, people who want to see this legislation passed, to reach out to your elected officials to let them know this is important to you — as their constituent. Here are a few things you can do:

  • Take ActionSend a letter to your elected officials asking them to support the Breast Cancer Patient Equity Act. (The email has already been written, so it’s really easy!) Go to letherdecide.org and click on ‘Take Action.’
  • Call your elected officials to request that they sign on to the legislation. Let them know how breast cancer and access to custom breast prosthesis has affected your life.
  • Like and Follow the Let Her Decide campaign on Facebook and Twitter, and invite your friends too!
  • Contact local breast cancer support groups and ask if you can visit them to speak about the Breast Cancer Patient Equity Act and Let Her Decide Campaign.
 
We are fighting for Katie. Katie is your mother, your best friend, your sister — you. Fight with us, and help pass legislation that gives all women the right to decide.


 

About the Author

Nicole Jensen is the vice president for Essentially Women (essentiallywomen.com), the division of VGM Group that serves as a community of providers, supplier partners and like-minded business professionals working together for the overall betterment of women's healthcare. She is passionate about helping independent providers thrive and succeed and making EW a resource for like-minded people working to serve patients in their own local communities.

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