Breast Cancer Awareness is a common topic, supported by breast cancer survivors and medical professionals everywhere. But educating breast cancer patients on their rights and options for reconstructive surgery is also extremely important.

A new piece of legislation, called the Breast Cancer Patient Education Act, is aiming to improve education of breast cancer patients by medical professionals and coverage providers.

The Purpose Of The Act

The stated purpose of the Breast Cancer Patient Education Act is to function as an amendment to the currently active Public Health Service Act by raising awareness of breast cancer, and educating breast cancer patients who are anticipating some form of surgery or treatment.

The goal is to increase the education and awareness in terms of breast cancer coverage, breast reconstruction, surgical options, and other options.

Research Findings

As part of the due diligence behind the construction of the act, Congressional researchers found new data to help construct and shape the scope of the bill. They found that 207,090 new cases of breast cancer are diagnosed on an annual basis, with a disproportionate number of diagnoses in African American and Hispanic/Latina women. They found that consideration of breast reconstruction is a necessary component of cancer-related treatment, and detailed a number of options available.

Perhaps the most critical and motivating finding of the research is that up to 70 percent of all women who are eligible for breast reconstruction are not adequately informed of reconstructive surgery options. Complementing this finding, they found that the majority of women who undergo reconstructive surgery were informed of the possibility by the breast cancer surgeon. This prompted a conclusion that by increasing public awareness of breast reconstruction options, more women will be able to pursue accurate reconstructive surgery. Currently, only a third of eligible women pursue reconstructive surgery.

Requirements Of The Act

As part of the act, the Secretary is responsible for designing and implementing an educational intervention to tell patients with breast cancer about the options and availability of breast reconstruction, prosthetic devices, and other surgical procedures. Some of this information will include:

  • Whether breast reconstruction is possible at the time of breast cancer surgery, or whether it can be implemented after a longer period of time
  • What kinds of prostheses or complementary breast forms are available
  • That federal law requires private and public health plans to include some coverage of breast reconstruction and prostheses
  • The patient’s right to choose the provider of reconstructive options, including transferring to a separate surgeon who can provide that type of care
  • The patient’s option to delay the implementation of breast reconstructive surgery for personal reasons, or after completing all forms of breast cancer treatment

The Breast Cancer Patient Education Act is a great step forward in improving the awareness and education of breast cancer patients. With so many breast cancer patients being unaware of their breast reconstructive options, many women lose the capacity to choose an effective reconstructive option. With the act in place, more women will have access to the information and resources they need to make an appropriate decision.