ASPS hosts congressional briefing on breast cancer patient education

Carrie Lamb
04/21/2014 at 12:30PM

Plastic surgeons representing nine states took to Capitol Hill on May 7 for the Midwest/Southeast Regional Advocacy Fly-in to Washington, D.C., where they met with more than 30 lawmakers to discuss ASPS priority issues that included the Breast Cancer Patient Education Act, the need for Medicare physician payment reform and the Accelerating Innovation in Medicine Act.

A major highlight of the day was a congressional briefing on the Breast Cancer Patient Education Act (BCPEA). Hosted
by ASPS, the briefing featured three breast-cancer survivors (pictured with ASPS Government Affairs Committee Chair Loren Schechter, MD, (from left) Gina Maisano, Dora Arias and Maimah Karmo) who shared their personal stories and informed the group about the need for better access to information on post-mastectomy treatment options for women diagnosed with breast cancer.

Positive perspectives
The event was kicked-off by remarks from Rep. Leonard Lance (R-N.J.), the lead House sponsor of the BCPEA. Rep. Lance stressed the importance of empowering women to make informed health-care decisions especially in relation to breast cancer.

ASPS Government Affairs Committee Chair Loren Schechter, MD, presented information on the Society's ongoing Breast Reconstruction Awareness Day (BRA Day) campaign, and the importance of BCPEA legislation from the perspective of a physician who treats women affected by breast cancer in his own practice. (For information on BRA Day, go to

Dora Arias, a 2012 ASPS Patient of Courage, shared her story of being diagnosed with breast cancer at age 39, and
discussed her gratitude for having been informed of her post-mastectomy treatment options at the time of her diagnosis. She chose to undergo breast reconstruction and has since founded Curémonos – which means "healing together."

Curémonos is an organization that reaches out to medically underserved women with breast cancer - particularly Latina women - who experience more difficulty due to financial instability, language barriers and cultural differences when faced with a breast cancer diagnosis.

The importance of information
Arias explained that she hears from women all over the country who've been diagnosed with breast cancer, and who are looking for support and education. She told the group she believes the BCPEA is vital to ensuring that women of all backgrounds have access to information about their options.

A second 2012 ASPS Patient of Courage, Gina Maisano, shared how she was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer at the age of 39. She spoke at that time to her doctor about having a bilateral mastectomy but was told she was not a candidate - and that a less-invasive procedure would be better. Five-and-a-half years later, she was diagnosed with cancer of her other breast. She's since started the No Surrender Breast Cancer Foundation and is the author of Intimacy After Breast Cancer.

Maisano reiterated the importance of women knowing their treatment options at the time of their diagnosis, saying that they can be empowered to make the right treatment choice for their lives and that they must understand it's possible to still feel beautiful in one's own body after breast cancer.

Next, Maimah Karmo told the group that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 32 – after discovering a lump in her breast during a self-exam that her mother had taught her to do routinely when she was young. After having to wait nearly a year before she was officially diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer – after countless tests and false negatives, even though she knew something was wrong – Karmo chose to have a lumpectomy.

She said she had been influenced by other factors when making that decision, including discussions with a loved one who was concerned about Karmo's post-treatment appearance.

Karmo founded the Tigerlily Foundation, which focuses on educating young women about breast cancer, the importance of knowing one's body and empowering women to be their own best advocates. She's also the author of Fearless: Awakening to My Life's Purpose Through Breast Cancer.

The Society's regional advocacy program is open to all plastic surgeons. The next Regional Advocacy Fly-in event to Washington, D.C., is slated for June 18-19, for the 27 states comprising the Northeast/West region. For more information or to reserve a spot in the event, contact ASPS Government Affairs Associate Carrie Lamb at (202) 672-1519 or email