Patients Avoid Breast Cancer Follow-up Tests Due to High Cost

Lisa Fitter says she first noticed a lump on her breast back in 2013.

The mom of 10-year-old twins at the time went in for a mammogram. Doctors confirmed they saw something suspicious, but she’d need more testing before an official diagnosis could be made.

Fitter, who did not have insurance at the time, was overwhelmed by the pending cost of those potentially life-saving tests.

“It’s a huge struggle. It’s a huge worry and it’s not something we really should have to worry about when we’re fighting for our lives,” Fitter said.

Unsure of how she would be able to afford the requested follow-up diagnostic testing, she turned to Susan G. Komen of Florida.

“All my diagnostic testing from the ultrasound to the MRI and the needle biopsies, all of that Komen took care of for me,” she said. “I did not see one bill while I was going through all that.”

Those tests eventually led to an official diagnosis. Fitter had breast cancer and would eventually undergo a bi-lateral mastectomy.

“The cost for diagnostic testing varies but they could be anywhere between $150 to well over a thousand dollars,” said Kate Watt, the Executive Director of Susan G. Komen Florida.

Watt says it’s a price tag too much for some families to afford, leaving them with a tough decision to make.

“I talk to people all across the state of Florida who are making choices, choices we don’t want anyone to make,” Watt said. “Whether it’s choices to pay your mortgage payment or put food on your table or get a diagnostic test and too often we hear from people who are delaying the test. They’re putting it off month after month.”

Watt says about 10 percent of all mammograms result in diagnostic testing, meaning an MRI, 3D mammogram or ultrasound.

Now, they’re taking their fight to state and federal lawmakers pushing for HB263/SB416, sponsored by Representative Kamia Brown and Senator Lori Berman.

The Advanced Breast Care and Diagnostic (or ABCD Bill) will have certain diagnostic tests prescribed by a healthcare provider post mammography screening to be at an equal rate as the mammogram, allowing more people to afford the care they need.

In May of 2019, Fritter says her breast cancer returned. Once again, she’s finding support in her Susan G. Komen family and is standing with them in the push for change.

“They know where to go for the help. You don’t know. You have so many things going through around your head when you’re told you have cancer that you don’t even know where to turn,” she said. “They are the resource to turn to.”

Saturday, January 25, 2020 will mark the 29th annual Susan G. Komen South Florida Race for the Cure in Downtown West Palm Beach.

Funds raised during the Race will support Susan G. Komen’s Bold Goal to reduce the nation’s 40,000 breast cancer deaths by 50 percent by 2026. Seventy-five percent of net proceeds from the race will remain local to provide screenings, treatment and education in Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River Counties. Twenty-five percent will support the Susan G. Komen Research and Training Grants Program, which funds groundbreaking breast cancer research awards and educational/scientific programs.

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