Bay State Entrepreneur Launches One-Woman Battle To Require Medicare To Cover Custom Breast Prosthetics
April 4, 2016 - Boston, Massachusetts -Among the 157 million women living in the United States, one of eight - nearly 20 million - will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. A cancer diagnosis is a cause of despair, emotional stress and anxiety for anyone. For women, though, the trauma of facing breast cancer is compounded by the radical changes to both their body and their self-esteem.
However, the federal Medicare program is not required to provide custom prosthetics, coverage for the effects of lymph edema (a post-mastectomy swelling of the arm), or even wigs when women lose their hair during chemotherapy. This is despite the fact that women with breast cancer who have private health insurance are eligible for a custom prosthetic and other post-mastectomy service.
"When you think about it, the two things that make you feel most like a woman are your hair and your breasts," explains Mary Aframe, founder and president of The Womenís Image Center outside of Boston. "One of the oncologists I work with told me that he asks his patients, ĎWhat was the hardest part of treatment?í And 85 percent say itís losing their hair. Can you imagine the emotional devastation of facing the removal of either one or both breasts?"
Helping women to feel like themselves after radical changes in their appearance is a crucial part of post-cancer healing. Because many women either do not elect or are unable to undergo breast reconstruction, a good-quality external breast prosthesis and prosthesis-fitting service is an integral part of their recovery process.
The Womenís Image Center is one of only 10 centers in the U.S. selected by the developer of the American Breast Care Custom Breast Prosthesis to offer its new, cutting-edge 3D laser prosthesis scanner. According to Aframe, "This amazing advance in medical technology helps women to feel closer to them again after breast cancer. We create a custom prosthetic that will exactly fit each womanís own unique surgical site insuring a cool, comfortable, lightweight solution that will even fit in a regular bra. "
For Lisa Kerswell, the road to recovery following a double mastectomy was not an easy one. "I had five surgeries in three months and my body rejected the implant during reconstruction," she states. "I got my first prosthetic in December of 2013. It was quite heavy and a standard size. My second was created through a lengthy casting, but the process was just not accurate and it was way too big. With an active job as a waitress, I need a good fit that will not just pop out of the inside of a bra. The new ABC [Custom Breast] Prosthesis is so lightweight and I donít sweat as much when running around. Although I still donít feel completely like myself, it has made such a difference. I just feel so much better."
Aframe is inspired daily by watching women facing the devastating challenges of breast cancer with courage and grace. "The women who come to see me are on a journey that no one ever expects or wants to go on," she states. "Together, we can help women to return to the level of comfort, both emotionally and physically, that they had before surgery. People say, ĎOh my god, if that ever happened to me, I could never handle it.í But if you are one of the 6,000 women in Massachusetts who will be diagnosed just this year, you will handle it. You have no choice. I see it every day."
As much as Aframe believes in her work, it can take its toll especially when women she works with donít survive the disease. "Some days, it is really hard," she states. "There have been a few times where Iíve had to call my therapist, but for the most part itís all very positive.
It is this dedication to the women with whom Aframe works that has sent her into a one-woman battle in the halls of Congress to ensure protection for her clients as well as all other women under the original terms of the Clinton administrationís 1998 Womenís Health Rights and Cancer Act (WHCRA). Requiring custom-breast-prosthetics services to be covered by Medicare, has become a mission for her.
The WHCRA mandated that insurance companies and HMOs that offer mastectomy coverage also must provide coverage for services related to the mastectomy. While Aframe heralds the Act and the difference it has made in the cancer-recovery process for women, she is also quick to point out that one of the countryís largest insurers, Medicare, is exempt.
In Aframeís words, "I felt compelled to take up the mantle for so many women who are fighting to not only survive breast cancer but to return to some sense of normal. All of those women are entitled to a custom prosthetic like the new ABC prosthesis that provides women with greater, comfort, fit and confidence. What a great day it would be for this country if Congress would unite and work on this sad manipulation of a law meant for the good of all women!"
For more information, call Mary Aframe, Womenís Image Center founder and president, at 508-754-8705508-754-8705, or click here to send her an e-mail.
The views expressed in this article are the authorís own and do not necessarily represent The New Rising Sunís editorial policy.
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