Bill requires doctors to deliver breast cancer options

Insurance required to pay for reconstruction following breast cancer surgery

SAN ANTONIO - A San Antonio plastic surgery center is supporting a bill in Congress that will require doctors to inform breast cancer patients on their post-surgery reconstructive options and what is covered by insurance.

Betsy Achilles had to have a double mastectomy and chemotherapy after she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007. She also experienced something about 70 percent of breast cancer surgery patients don't—she heard about all of her options.

"I had expanders put in at the time of the mastectomy and I have silicone implants," Achilles said. "That was the right choice for me."

Dr. Steven Pisano with PRMA Plastic Surgery in San Antonio said Achilles was lucky and that in the urgency of treatment, that choice more often than not, is not given.

"We do a disservice to women by not taking the time to offer the reconstructive options and taking the time to set them up with the other treating physicians," Pisano said.

PRMA has breast reconstruction clients from Washington, Maine and Florida, most of who found out about their options on their own. This has lead the clinic to join other plastic surgeons to back the Breast Cancer Patient Education Act, a bill that would require patients to get the information upfront of all that's available and what is covered by insurance.

Many patients who have their breasts removed don’t realize that their insurance is required to pay for reconstruction, and that it can be done at the same time as the mastectomy itself.
Pisano said it just makes good sense.

"Women who have breast reconstruction after mastectomy return to work sooner, they have more productive lives, fewer episodes of depression," he said.

Achilles said she can certainly attest.

"Read the literature, let it absorb and make an educated decision on what is best for us and our families," she said.


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