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October is

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a public health campaign during October every year to increase awareness and to raise funds for researching the cause, prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and cure of the disease.

Breast cancer is one of the most common kinds of cancer in women; unfortunately, almost 1 in 8 women in the US will get breast cancer, but most women can survive if it is found and treated early. A mammogram – the screening test for breast cancer – can find breast cancer early, when it is easiest to treat.  

Senate Bill 595

In June 2020, the Pennsylvania Senate voted unanimously to pass Senate Bill 595, legislation that requires Pennsylvania insurers to cover breast cancer screenings, including MRIs and ultrasounds, for women with very dense breasts and other high-risk conditions. Governor Wolf signed the bill in July 2020, turning the proposed legislation into law and expanding healthcare coverage for women across the commonwealth. Specifically, the bill covers screenings for women with:

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High-risk factors for breast cancer such as personal history, family history or a genetic predisposition

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Extremely dense breast tissue

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Heterogeneously dense breast tissue with one other high-risk factor for breast cancer

Research shows MRIs can detect 2.5 times more breast cancers than 3D mammograms in women with dense breasts. The bill makes MRIs more accessible and affordable for patients, ultimately allowing women to detect breast cancer early and increase the effectiveness of treatment.

Facts and Stats

 

Know the symptoms.

New lump in the breast or underarm (armpit)

Thickening or swelling of part of the breast

Irritation or dimpling of breast skin

Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or the breast

Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area

Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood

Any change in the size or the shape of the breast Pain in any area of the breast

Resources

Visit PA Beast Cancer Coalition for additional resources.

I need a mammogram

If you are between the ages of 40 and 64, you may qualify for a screening mammogram, clinical breast exam and Pap test through the Pennsylvania Breast & Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (PA-BCCEDP). Free services for those meeting the eligibility standards include:

  • Mammograms;
  • Pap and HPV tests; and
  • Follow-up diagnostic tests for abnormal screening results

You can learn more about eligibility requirements on the PA Department of Health’s website or by calling 215-985-3300.

I don’t have insurance and I need treatment

If breast or cervical cancer or a precancerous condition is detected through the PA-BCCEDP, you may be eligible for free treatment through the Department of Human Services (DHS) – Breast and Cervical Cancer Prevention and Treatment Program (BCCPT). Eligibility for BCCPT is determined by DHS.

For specific information visit the BCCPT website.

I need help paying my prescriptions

Needy Meds is a nonprofit information service devoted to helping people in need find assistance programs to help them afford their medications and costs related to health care. Simply enter the name of your prescription medication in the search line and all available programs will be shown. For more information, visit the Needy Meds web page.

Pennsylvania’s prescription assistance programs for older adults, PACE and PACENET, offer low-cost prescription medication to qualified residents, age 65 and older. For more information, call 1-800-225-7223 or visit the PA Department of Aging website.

I need help with my co-pays

Patient Advocate Foundation’s Co-Pay Relief Program offers assistance if your income is restricted to 400% of the poverty level. For more information, click here or call 866-512-3861.

Cancer Care Co-Payment Assistance Foundation, offers assistance for co-payment of prescriptions.  For more information, click here or call 866-55-COPAY.

I have questions about what is covered under my health insurance

The PBCC’s guidebook “Breast Cancer: Covered or Not?” can be downloaded for free and was created to answer many of your questions, including what insurers are required to cover. You may appeal any denial of coverage from your insurer, and the guidebook provides sample letters.

The Pennsylvania Insurance Department answers insurance-related questions and hears complaints. Reach them on their automated toll-free hotline at 877-881-6388 or via online form.

In 2020, Governor Tom Wolf signed the PA Breast Cancer Coalition’s life-saving breast cancer screening legislation for women across the commonwealth. Senate Bill 595 requires insurers to cover breast MRIs and ultrasounds for women with very dense breasts and other high-risk factors for breast cancer. Under the new law, the patient may be responsible for costs such as co-pays, co-insurance and/or deductibles based on the individual’s health insurance policy regulated under Pennsylvania law. Each patient is advised to contact her insurer to determine what costs the insured would be responsible for prior to receiving the MRI and/or ultrasound.

I need financial assistance

Below is a list of organizations that offer financial assistance for patients and survivors:

  • Susan G. Komen® offers the Komen Treatment Assistance Program to eligible, underserved individuals who are actively undergoing breast cancer treatment. Visit their website for more detail.
  • CancerCare provides limited financial assistance for homecare, childcare and transportation. Click here or call 800-813-HOPE for details.
  • The Pink Fund provides 90-day help with non-medical cost-of-living expenses for patient in active treatment.
  • Pink Daisy Project, (for women under 45 only) offers financial help by providing grocery, restaurant and gas gift cards.
  • The Journey Foundation, Inc.  provides financial assistance with rent, mortgage and utilities.  All recipients must be in active treatment for cancer. To apply, click 
  • Ta-Ta Rebels, Inc. covers out-of-pocket expenses for breast cancer survivors no longer in treatment.
  • Cancer Recovery Foundation provides financial assistance for basic living expenses such as utilities and rent. A doctor or social worker may submit an application on your behalf. For more details, click here or call 717-545-7600.

I need a hat, wig or prostheses

There are many organizations that provide information and free options for women who would like to begin wearing a wig or head piece during their cancer treatment. Below is a list of some available resources:

  • Hairs 2 U Wig Bank’s mission is to assist uninsured and underinsured women and children affected by illnesses that cause hair loss. Learn more on their website.
  • The Cancer Center Boutique at the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine offers products and services designed for the unique needs of female cancer patients.
  • Wigs and Wishes encourages those in need of a wig to use the official Wigs & Wishes map to locate a salon closest them. They provide free wigs through various salons across the globe.
  • Pink Heart Funds offers free wigs, post-mastectomy bras and prostheses (prescription required). For more information, click here or call 228-575-8299.
  • Sparkle My Head Scarves offers beautiful head scarves (with a little bling!) on its website. Finished with treatment? Take part in the “Pass on the Sparkle” program by donating your gently used head scarf to be used in their free Friends Like Me care packages for newly diagnosed women. Click here for more information.
  • In the Pittsburgh area, within 412 and 724 area codes, Hair Peace Charities offers $200 for women and girls in the Western PA region to purchase a wig when insurance does not help them. Contact them at hairpeace.org or 412-327-5177. Some, but not all, insurance policies cover the cost of wigs if the request is from a physician and worded as a “cranial prosthesis.”

I’m worried about keeping my job

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) applies to taking care of yourself as well as others. To qualify, your place of employment must have 50 or more employees and you must have worked there for at least 12 consecutive months. The act requires your employer to provide 12 workweeks of unpaid leave time. Details are on the Department of Labor website.

I need transportation to treatment

  • Philly Patient Ride offers volunteers who drive cancer patients to Philadelphia hospitals for treatment.  The patient must be referred to the program by a health care provider.  For more information, click here or call 215-985-3511.
  • Angel Flight East offers air travel to distant cities for medical treatment. Patients must be able to board an aircraft and travel in a single or twin-engine plane. For details, visit the website here or call 610-940-1600.
  • Patient Airlift Service provides free volunteer medical flights.  Patients assume the cost of ground transportation at destination and departure locations. Find more information here or call 631-694-7257.