The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services ruled today that certain breast cancer prevention drugs will be covered by health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act. Read more.
This very important announcement means that patients at increased risk of breast cancer can now receive chemoprevention drugs, including tamoxifen and raloxifene, without a co-pay or other out-of-pocket expense. The decision comes after recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force that patients deemed to be at increased risk of breast cancer (due to age, family history or other factors) can take such preventive medication to decrease the risk of developing the disease.
The HHS decision is a significant milestone in America’s health care system. The expanded coverage will empower patients across the country to make informed decisions based on their breast cancer risk without additional financial burden.
In addition to this new coverage, the Affordable Care Act currently requires insurers to cover mammography, with no cost-sharing, every one to two years for women starting at age 40. Medicare fully pays for mammograms once every 12 months with no upper age limit.
Komen has also consistently advocated for coverage for quality cancer care for all women. Breast cancer prevention has been a key focus of Komen’s research portfolio for many years, with almost $47 million invested into prevention research.
Guest post by Dr. Susan Love
The Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation launched the Collateral Damage from Breast Cancer Treatment project in October to kick off Breast Cancer Awareness month and we have been very excited by your response to our call for topics and questions to help us document the “cost of the cure” to our lives. The goal of the project is to ask breast cancer survivors about the collateral damage they experienced from their breast cancer treatments and to compare their experiences to those without a history of breast cancer so we can better document the side effects attributable to various treatments. Many of the collateral damage issues you reported were not unexpected, such as lymphedema, depression/anxiety, fatigue, memory problems/chemobrain, and sexual problems. Other side effects that are less recognized include issues with toenails and fingernails as well as dripping noses in those taking Herceptin. We are eagerly working our way through all your responses to find these previously unreported findings.
Of particular interest was the fact that many of you were not told, or at least did not remember being told, about many of the side effects that are already well recognized. For example, you will always be numb after a mastectomy and will never get the feeling back. This has to do with the way the operation is done– cutting all the sensory nerves. Other long term consequences such as neuropathy, pins and needles, and sensory problems from the chemotherapy also don’t get better. Some of the sexual issues, such as loss of libido or dryness, can be caused by drugs like aromatase inhibitors (AI’s) which could resolve once you stop taking them, but if they are caused by menopause, they probably won’t resolve. While most of us would accept the consequences of treatment to save our lives, we really should know what to expect.
Edith A. Perez, M.D. received the Susan G. Komen Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction in Clinical Research for her impactful contributions to the field of breast cancer treatment, which have helped to shape the standard of care for breast cancer patients globally. Dr. Perez has devoted her career to improving breast cancer patient care and expanding the understanding of breast cancer biology. She has led a wide range of translational clinical trials testing new therapeutic agents for the treatment and prevention of breast cancer – trials that have had a lasting impact on women facing a breast cancer diagnosis. The award was presented on December 11 at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.
“Over the last few years, we’ve been concentrating more and more on what we call next-generation gene sequencing, which not only identifies different gene expressions (how information contained in genes is turned into genetic products such as proteins) in tumors, but also interrogates gene interactions that may impact tumor behavior.”
“As our research progresses, in addition to defining predictive models to better recommend prevention and therapy, we will identify new treatments that will optimize quality of life and survival for people around the world.”
Early in my life, I wanted to be part of something that was innovative, unique and great, but I didn’t know exactly what that would be. When I started college at age 16, I was going to study mathematics. By the second year in college I migrated from math to medicine, as I became enamored with science and the idea of helping people in a more tangible way than solving mathematical puzzles.
Dr. Gordon B. Mills received the 2013 Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction in Basic Science for his significant contributions to breast cancer research, which have been essential to advancing our understanding of the key processes that drive breast cancer’s initiation, progression and response to therapy. Dr. Mills has championed a cancer systems biology approach to understand the impact of genomic aberrations on complex signaling networks at the proteomic (protein) level, with the goal of individualizing cancer diagnosis and treatment. The award was presented on December 11 during the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.
“In 2007, Komen awarded me a grant that facilitated the development of a new tool to study proteins and their functions within breast cancers.”
“All scientists young and old must remember that we are dependent on the intellectual input of colleagues and trainees. It is not the success of the individual that is important but rather that of the research team.”
Like many of the previous winners of this award, I too came to breast cancer research by an unexpected route. No one in my family had ever graduated from or even attended college. However, reading about the great scientists of the previous centuries encouraged me to make research a career choice.
People may not understand that “basic biology” is anything but basic! During my training in biochemistry and in medical school, I was attracted to immunology as a field of research. When I started my career, I was interested in the lack of immune response to the fetus during pregnancy, and how the clearly different genetic makeup of the fetus escapes rejection by the mother’s immune system. This biologic enigma led me to pursue a fellowship in Obstetrics and Gynecology. Along the way, my focus shifted to tumor immunology. I wanted to know how the lack of a mother’s immune response to a fetus related to a patient’s apparent lack of immune response to a tumor. Our team was among the first to describe new methods for immunotherapy that established some of the concepts that are used in cancer immune cell therapy today.
In 2008, we were very proud to have expanded the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure® series beyond its domestic Komen Affiliate network by establishing successful partnerships with leading nonprofit organizations from around the world to organize Race for the Cure events outside of the United States. The International Race series has changed the way communities around the world view and react to the words “breast cancer” and how breast cancer survivors are regarded in their respective countries.
While each International Race is unique, they all have the common goal of increasing breast cancer awareness, providing a sense of hope and community to those who have suffered from the disease and educating the public and local governments about breast health. Race events create a positive environment in which breast cancer is put in the public eye. Despite local taboos, we have seen the power of women around the world breaking the silence about breast cancer. On Race day, brave survivors acknowledge their disease and continue to dispel myths about breast cancer, serving as ambassadors for the cause. As a result, other survivors feel hopeful and women are empowered to take control of their health.
But the impact of our International Race series doesn’t stop on Race day. Thanks to these events, local survivor support groups have been established, access to screening, diagnosis and treatment has been increased, breast cancer awareness programs for key target groups have been created, and patient support programs continue to grow.
Over the past month, Race events took place in Belgium, Greece, Germany, Italy, Puerto Rico, Bosnia & Herzegovina, the Republic of Georgia and Tanzania. In this four-part series, we recap these international events while providing information about their local mission work.
We finish the series with recaps from the Republic of Georgia and Tanzania.
In Georgia, we are proud to have joined forces with Women Wellness Care Alliance (HERA) to organize the annual Race for the Cure at Vake Park in Tbilisi, an event that – in its 5th year – is well-known among the population of Georgia. This year’s Race took place on October 13, 2013, and attracted over 1,000 registered participants, including 130 breast cancer survivors. A group of survivors grew special pink flowers in small flower pots and displayed them at the Race as a symbol of hope.