Help to combat the most common cancer impacting American women
After a chaotic year, October is finally upon us. While many people view this as a heart-warming kick-off to the fall season, this month also brings greater awareness about a frightening diagnosis for many Americans.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month has historically been marked using bright pink ribbons to show support for the more than 3.8 million breast cancer survivors in the United States today. While it is admirable to show support in this way, it is perhaps more important to understand the facts about the harsh realities of this diagnosis, how common this disease is and the financial hardship it places on women, and men, every year.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women, and the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women. According to the National Cancer Institute, a woman without a family history of breast cancer has a one in eight chance of being diagnosed with the disease in her lifetime. The chances of someone with a family history is much higher.
Thanks to new discoveries in treatment, along with early detection, the five-year survival rate is around 90%. However, the financial blow that comes with the treatment, surgery and genetic and genomic testing weighs heavily on patients. Luckily, there are a few critical steps that can be taken to lessen this burden so that those struggling with their diagnosis can focus less on their bank accounts, and more on fighting the great fight. Here are our six tips to maximize medical financial aid for breast cancer treatment.
The moment a patient has been diagnosed with breast cancer is overwhelming, making it important that patient advocates are available to help them understand the realities of these costs, and what assistance is available to them. Researching the specific stage and common forms of treatment can help to determine what procedures and testing are necessary and provide an idea of the estimated costs associated with the treatment. Having a plan ahead of time and working with the prescribing physician allows patient advocates to maximize their ability to search for specific types of financial aid for the patient.
Not all insurance is created equal, and prior authorizations can help shed light on the coverage that the patient has for specific types of treatment. Take the time to review the prior authorization and determine if their insurance will cover the cost of their treatment. If it is denied, the patient may be eligible to receive their drug free of charge through one of thousands of philanthropic aid programs.
Many of the big-name pharmaceutical companies offer patient assistance programs to cover the cost of most cancer-treating drugs for uninsured or underinsured patients. Common breast cancer chemotherapy drugs, such as Herceptin, Kisqali and Ibrance, are made available to patients for free through the manufacturers themselves. In fact, the best assistance options come directly from the manufacturer.
There is an extensive list of programs and organizations which provide additional cost assistance outside of medication. Organizations, such as the Young Survival Coalition and the American Cancer Society, provide access assistance to food, travel, lodging, wigs, childcare and support networks. In addition, state-specific assistance programs are available for cancer patients. For example, the state of Georgia has a state-sponsored financial assistance program for women diagnosed with breast or cervical cancer.
Patient advocates are dedicated to supporting patients throughout the treatment process and beyond. As behind-the-scene champions, they are experienced in all types of financial assistance, most of which may not be public knowledge. Patient advocates do the heavy lifting to determine the best assistance options to fit a patient’s needs, get them enrolled quickly and easily, and provide peace of mind. It is critical that patient advocates be well-informed and knowledgeable about the vast selection of financial aid programs so that they can choose the option that is best for the patient and ensure that no patient is left behind.
While many patient advocacy teams work directly with their designated health system, teams from coalitions, such as the National Association of Medication Access and Patient Advocacy (NAMAPA), are also devoted to helping patient advocates with knowledge and resources.
In addition, medical financial aid platforms like Atlas can consolidate all aid programs in one place, while streamlining the matching and enrollment processes, so that patient advocates can do more for their patients every day.
Breast cancer is a challenging, life-altering diagnosis that impacts millions of Americans. Understanding the available financial aid options can help patient advocates to better assist patients during a difficult time.