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Important Breast Cancer Legislation

Advocating for Breast Cancer Survivors

One way to gain a feeling of control and work to improve your life and the lives of all breast cancer survivors is to join an advocacy group. Advocacy groups are organizations working to get laws passed that address needs and concerns of a specific segment of the population. Members of breast cancer advocacy groups usually include survivors and their families, health care professionals and legal experts.

Other groups that push for laws that may benefit breast cancer survivors are general cancer advocacy and women’s health advocacy groups. Important issues pursued by all of these include increasing funding for research, better insurance coverage for a wider range of people, and better access to clinical trials. Scroll further down for a list of some of the largest, most active breast cancer-related advocacy groups and their websites:

Legislation Benefiting Breast Cancer Survivors

The Breast Cancer Patient Protection Act of 2003

Created to amend the Public Health Service Act and Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 to require group and individual health insurance coverage and group health plans provide coverage for a minimum 48-hour hospital stay for patients undergoing a mastectomy performed for the treatment of breast cancer. Join others like Lifetime TV, Y-Me and many more in the pledge to stop drive-through mastectomies.

Native American Breast and Cervical Cancer Treatment Technical Amendment Act of 2001

To amend title XIX of the Social Security Act to clarify that Indian women with breast or cervical cancer who are eligible for health services provided under a medical care program of the Indian Health Service or of a tribal organization are included in the optional medicaid eligibility category of breast or cervical cancer patients added by the Breast and Cervical Cancer Prevention and Treatment Act of 2000.

Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act

Thanks to the work of groups like those below, laws such as those above are passed that directly affect the lives of breast cancer survivors. An important federal law affecting tens of thousands of women with breast cancer is the 1998 Federal Breast Reconstruction Law, also called the Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act, or Women’s Health Act of 1998.

The Women’s Health Act requires group and individual health insurance plans that cover mastectomy to cover breast reconstruction surgery and other post-mastectomy procedures. The procedures covered by the law include:

  • reconstruction of the breast on which mastectomy has been performed
  • surgery and reconstruction on the other breast to produce a symmetrical appearance
  • prostheses (implants)
  • treatment for physical complications of mastectomy, including lymphedema
  • The Women’s Health Act represents a significant achievement for breast cancer advocates for several reasons:

In 1998, more than 60,000 breast cancer patients in the U.S. opted for breast reconstruction following mastectomy and the number is rising, thanks to the new law.

Before the law was passed only about 50% of all states required insurance companies to pay for breast reconstruction and related procedures, and even then the laws did not apply to all insurance companies. The federal law covers all states, whether or not they have their own laws on the subject.

Before the law, breast reconstruction and related procedures were not covered because they were considered “merely cosmetic” and because they did not treat “medically threatening” conditions. With the new law comes acknowledgement of the importance of breast reconstruction for women’s overall health and well being.

EGS Brokerage has a page on its website that answers questions about the Women’s Health Act of 1998.

National Breast Cancer CoalitionNBCC is ranked among the top 25 most influential groups in Health Policy. Read more about it here. - Supported by Susan G. Komen for a Cure Foundation. Send a letter to your congressperson and senators to support full funding of the Patient Navigator Act. Click here to join the millions of other american's taking action.

The American Cancer Society’s advocacy pages provide maps to help you find advocacy groups in your area.

The National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship website discusses cancer advocacy issues and ways to get involved.