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Study: Many women not informed of post breast cancer surgery options

7 out of 10 breast cancer patients are not told insurance companies are required to pay for reconstruction

Barry Carpenter

The 33 News

September 22, 2010

DALLAS

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Candace Peterson is in an all too familiar place--the doctors office.

Two years ago she was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a double mastectomy.

"When you are diagnosed with breast cancer you live in the moment," Candace said. "You don't really think about the future and what comes next and it's a scary thing."

And according to a new study by the American Society of Breast Surgeons 7 out of 10 women don't what's next because they're never told.

In 1998 a federal law was passed requiring insurance companies to pay for the plastic surgery women needed after having their breasts removed to treat breast cancer.

Candace is one of the lucky ones--her oncologist gave her a list of plastic surgeons to visit after her cancer surgery and her insurance company paid for the procedure.

Candace said she's hocked that many women are left in the dark.

"It just seems so archaic now, I mean ten years ago this law was passed and the fact that it's not common knowledge is really tragic," Candace said.

Forest Park Medical Center plastic surgeon Gregg Anigian performed reconstruction breast surgery on Candace--he said women need critical information while on their breast cancer journey.

"If it's an issue anywhere it needs to be addressed--women who have had breast cancer need to be aware--given options," Dr. Anigian said.

Last month New York legislators passed a law requiring hospitals to inform breast cancer patients about their post surgery options.

Dr. Anigian said some women--mostly older women--choose not to have reconstruction surgery--but every woman should know she has a choice.

"You would like to be able to say no, I really don't want that rather than than to never be presented with the option for reconstruction," Dr. Anigian said.

Candace said reconstruction made her feel whole again--and two years ago is a lifetime ago.

"Some days I wake up and I forget that I've had cancer."

The American Society of Breast Surgeons is advocating a medical team approach including a gynecologist, radiologist, breast surgeon, medical oncologist and a plastic surgeon.