Breast Cancer Struggle a Financial Nightmare

breastcancerawarenessribbonEditor's Note: You may have read this post back in August.  In light of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we are re-posting a condensed version here, to raise awareness about the second leading cause of cancer death among women. Read the original post here.

A breast cancer diagnosis is devastating, and for some, it's a financial nightmare.

More than one million cancer survivors are skipping treatment because they can't afford it, according to the American Association for Cancer Research, and more than 680,000 new cases were diagnosed last year.

But the Pretty in Pink Foundation in Raleigh is helping women receive quality cancer care through a network of 50-some specialists-whether they can afford it or not.

Dr. Lisa Tolnitch founded the nonprofit in 2004 to help patients manage an already-daunting disease without worrying about insurance coverage. Because nearly 20 percent of women in North Carolina don't have it.

More than 14 percent live at or below the poverty line. Not to mention 1/3 of households are managed by single or divorced women with limited incomes.

Penny Lauricella, executive director at Pretty in Pink, said that need vindicates her work at the foundation. Lauricella explained more about the foundation that has served more than 250 women since 2006.

Q. How much could an uninsured or under-insured woman expect to pay for cancer treatment without Pretty in Pink or a similar service?

A. Helping the uninsured and under-insured breast cancer patients is an expensive proposition. Cost for treating a patient-depending on needs-can run from a few thousand dollars to in excess of $225,000 for full course of treatment.

It is daunting when a woman has to make a decision of keeping a roof over her children's heads, food on the table, etc. They are forced to make choices no one should have to make.

Q. How does Pretty in Pink help?

A: We help assist with the financial means for surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. In many cases, all three.

Q. How does the foundation gauge which breast cancer patients qualify for service?

A. All persons requesting financial assistance submit an application and each treatment plan is reviewed by our Medical Advisory Committee, volunteer board members, all physicians, who discuss, review and make appropriate recommendations.

Q. Do patients pay on a sliding scale?

A. If the patient is under-insured, yes, she will pay on a sliding scale according to annual income, family size, etc.

Q. You hope to have a presence in every state at some point. Is there a time line for this, and an idea of which states you'll focus on first?

A. The ultimate vision of Pretty In Pink Foundation is to eliminate financial barriers and provide financial resources to any and all breast cancer patients with a true financial need for treatment and surgery. To realize this vision we need to expand our efforts throughout the United States and by 2020, Pretty In Pink Foundation foresees a point of presence in every state.

We are currently developing the infrastructure that will allow for a centralized professional staff to deal with all of the confidential patient information, approval processes and financial payments to providers.

We are expecting that this process will be fully deployed by February 2010, and are looking at a few states to start with on the east coast.

TakePart:

With low overhead, Pretty in Pink currently spends 90 percent of the funds it receives towards direct patient service. And the foundation is seeking support-monetary and other-to expand its services by creating chapters in every state.

Specifically, volunteers and professionals willing to start and manage local chapter, qualified medical professionals who can provide free and reduced care services, qualified medical institutions that will extend grants of services for Pretty in Pink patients, and pharmaceutical companies able to donate treatment drugs.

To learn more, visit Pretty in Pink.

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