Breast Cancer Patient Education Act introduced in House

Lori Shoaf
06/11/2012 at 10:00AM

Bipartisan legislation introduced in the House of Representatives on June 8 would require the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to plan and implement an education campaign aimed at informing mastectomy patients of breast reconstruction availability and coverage, and of prostheses and other replacement options.

Educational materials resulting from the Breast Cancer Patient Education Act (H.R. 5937) would inform women that breast reconstruction is possible at the time of breast cancer surgery; that it may be delayed until after other treatments; or that they may choose not to have reconstruction and be informed of the availability of prostheses or breast forms. These materials also would inform breast cancer patients that federal law mandates coverage of breast reconstruction, even if such reconstruction is delayed until after other treatments.

"The Breast Cancer Patient Education Act will get the best information into the hands of women and their families, to empower them in making the best choice for their care," says ASPS President Malcolm Z. Roth, MD. "Knowledge is power. Federal law has long required coverage for reconstruction and prostheses - and no woman should be denied the right to choose the care they need, just because they weren't aware of their choices."

Research identifies gaps

Since 1998, health plans that offer breast cancer coverage have been required to provide coverage for breast reconstruction and prostheses. However, only 33 percent of eligible women with breast cancer undergo breast reconstruction - and published research shows that nearly 70 percent of women are not informed of their care options.

Recent studies by ASPS member Amy Alderman, MD, Atlanta, determined that the two dominant reasons why women did not undergo breast reconstruction were that they hadn't been informed of options - or they hadn't been referred to a plastic surgeon for breast reconstruction.

States on the rise

Several states have enacted laws requiring women to receive information about their breast cancer treatment and reconstructive options. The Breast Cancer Patient Education Act seeks to inform and empower women to make health care decisions that best meet their personal needs.

The bill was introduced by Reps. Leonard Lance (R-N.J.); Donna Christensen, MD (D-Virgin Islands); Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.); Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.); Gerald Connolly (D-Va.); James Moran (D-Va.); Hansen Clarke (D-Mich.); John Lewis (D-Ga.); Barbara Lee (D-Calif.); Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-District of Columbia), Gwen Moore (D-Wis.); Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), and Michael Honda (D-Calif.).

"Speaking on behalf of ASPS members and our patients, we thank the sponsors of this bipartisan, common sense legislation and appreciate their support," says Dr. Roth. "As plastic surgeons, we recognize this disparity on a personal level with our patients and their families, and we agree the government can do more to ensure women have the tools available to make decisions about their health care."

Support from singer Jewel and BRA Day

In support of education and the process to ensure that all breast cancer patients are fully informed of their surgical options, ASPS and The PSF will launch the inaugural National Breast Reconstruction Awareness (BRA) Day on Oct. 17. Renowned singer-songwriter, philanthropist and breast cancer advocate Jewel will serve as the national spokesperson and will advocate on behalf of National BRA Day.

Jewel has written a song to recognize breast reconstruction patients, and she will perform that song and others during a charitable concert in New Orleans on Oct. 29 - during Plastic Surgery 2012. For more information on Jewel or BRA Day, go to