October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. As a three-time cancer survivor, first diagnosed in 2001, this work isn’t a once-a-year wardrobe decision. It’s a constant preoccupation, and I’m fortunate to volunteer with an organization that shares my commitment to ensuring that people of all ages enjoy a high quality of life and wellbeing – especially when it comes to cancer.
After my second breast cancer diagnosis, a bilateral mastectomy, and immediate reconstruction, I uncovered a study which reported disturbingly the majority of women are not notified of their breast reconstruction options by their surgeons. It underscored how essential it is for women to understand all their surgical options, at the onset of their cancer diagnosis so that they can choose the best treatment for them.
And so, United Way of Southeast Louisiana and Breastoration, an organization I founded with fellow breast cancer survivors dedicated to education, advocacy, and financial assistance, set out to ensure that all Louisiana women would know their options and make sure that insurance companies must cover breast reconstructive surgeries.
UWSELA’s Public Policy Committee and Breastoration advocated for the passage of five new laws in 2015 to make it clear that: (1) no phase of any breast reconstruction surgery will be deemed cosmetic surgery; (2) a mastectomy and reconstruction do not have to be performed under the same plan; (3) if an insurance plan covers a mastectomy, it must also cover breast reconstruction; (4) a woman in consultation with her physician decides which type of reconstruction is best for her; (5) an insurance plan cannot dictate which breast reconstruction procedure it will cover; and (5) an insurance provider cannot reduce or limit coverage for the patient or reimbursement to a surgeon to induce the selection of a lower cost reconstruction procedure.
Further still, the 2018 Legislative Session advanced our excellence in advocacy for breast cancer and reconstruction patients yet again. UWSELA’s Public Policy Committee partnered with several outstanding individuals and organizations to pass legislation to strengthen breast cancer survivor laws so that women are properly educated and cared for following a diagnosis.
Senator Troy Carter was inspired to author a bill requiring hospitals to better educate women about breast reconstruction before performing any surgery after his niece, Chontel Carter Frank, underwent a prophylactic double mastectomy with reconstruction in 2017 due to a genetic predisposition to cancer. While Representative Julie Stokes courageously shared her own experience as a recent breast cancer survivor with her colleagues in Baton Rouge, and, with assistance from Dr. Daniel Rupley from Touro Infirmary, passed legislation licensing genetic counselors in Louisiana and mandating insurance coverage for state-of-the-art mammography and annual preventative screenings for cancer survivors.
Together, United Way and Breastoration created the most robust breast reconstruction insurance coverage and requirement to inform laws in the nation.
Please show your support for those whose lives have been touched by breast cancer this October and join United Way’s fight to ensure all women are healthy, educated, and financially stable.
If you are a woman in need of financial assistance to have breast reconstruction, please download the Breastoration application and visit the Breastoration website for complete details. (Breastoration is administered by CAGNO – the Cancer Association of New Orleans – a proud UWSELA-funded program).