Just over 40 years ago if you were a woman, you couldn’t make your own decisions in regards to breast cancer. Surgeons would lop off the tumor and both breasts all in one shot (radical mastectomy). It wasn’t uncommon for your doctor and husband to decide on this course of care without your input or knowledge.
In 1974, first lady Betty Ford was diagnosed with breast cancer. That same year Rose Kushner, then a journalist, had also been diagnosed with breast cancer. Outraged by treatment options being offered at the time, she wrote about it in The Washington Post.
Kushner used her connections in the White House to get to Mrs. Ford. She was desperately trying to tell her that there was another, less radical option—a partial mastectomy. After exhausting all of her resources, she finally received word from the White House, “The president has made his decision.” A few days later, the story broke making front page news; the first lady had a radical mastectomy.
And just like that, for women, the decision was finalized.
When men stopped making our decisions, insurance companies stepped in
Then a new healthcare bill passed opening up our options. The Affordable Care Act aka Obamacare became law in the United States on March 23, 2010. Before the new law passed, having a say in our course of care wasn’t the only obstacle women had to hurdle.
Pre-Obamacare, your insurance company could charge you for proven preventive care like mammograms. Yearly or lifetime dollar limits were placed on coverage and with the costs of treatments, it was easy to exhaust all of your benefits quickly. Women and their families were left to pay exorbitant costs out of pocket. And breast cancer survivors could be denied insurance with a new company based on pre-existing conditions.
Obamacare changed all of that for you…you’re welcome.
Today our voices are loud and we have more options
Here’s what I suggest:
1.) Get informed about your individual risks and the facts around breast cancer HERE.
2.) Schedule an appointment with a qualified healthcare professional. Ask about appropriate screenings for you. Take advantage of the patient protection laws that require free screenings. If you don’t have health insurance at the moment, you are still able to get the care you need. To learn how, go HERE and HERE.
3.) Learn how to do self-breast exams in the comfort of your home. Get intimate with your breast and examine at least monthly. You should teach your partner how to do it as well so that they can help feel for any lumps. Learn more by watching videos HERE.
For more information on how the Affordable Care Act helps to protect you, read HERE.
We’ve come a long way!
The secret veil of breast cancer was lifted the 1970’s. Women like actress Shirley Temple Black, journalist and pioneering activist Rose Kushner, first lady Betty Ford, and singer Minnie Riperton openly shared their experiences. Their stories gave others the courage to muster up the strength and battle cancer.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Let’s celebrate! My wish for you is that you’ll spend time putting your breast health first this month. Get informed, take steps toward prevention, screen early, and spread the word. Also, take a moment to thank the brave women responsible for giving us a voice, a platform, and making it possible for us to have the final say in our healthcare.
(Source: YouTube/Singer Minnie Riperton Classic 1979 American Cancer Society Video)
Elisha Lowe is a registered nurse, business strategist, writer, entrepreneur, and inspirational speaker with two decades of experience in healthcare. She works with top healthcare organizations to grow novel products that support better patient outcomes in hospitals while engaging in entrepreneurial pursuits. You can follow her on Twitter @ElishaLoweRN or learn more at www.elishalowe.com.