women 4 hope

Dedicated to addressing women’s issues.

Breast Cancer Treatment…What Is Your Life Worth?

Posted by Catherine Morgan on October 12, 2007

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Breast Cancer Treatment…What Is Your Life Worth? — by Catherine Morgan (cross-posted at BlogHer)

Revolutionary new cancer drugs offer hope where there was none. But the price tag may be too high for some to bear.

Many Americans are already having to decide between food on the table and their prescription medications. The health care crisis is hitting hard, and the cost of prescription drugs is sky-rocketing. But what happens when you have to decide between expensive breast cancer treatments to save your life, and paying the mortgage on your house? How much could you afford to spend, to save your life? It’s not even a fair question to ask, but many cancer patients are being forced to answer it.

This is an excerpt from a recent article in SELF magazine

Seven months after being diagnosed with stage IIIB inflammatory breast cancer, 37-year-old Diekmeyer had spent nearly 100 days in doctors’ offices or the hospital near her Ohio home. She’d had five surgeries, with another scheduled for September; slogged through more than three months of grisly chemotherapy; suffered the indignities of baldness and violent nausea. After all that, she still didn’t know if she’d survive the year. But Diekmeyer had another, more immediate, fear keeping her up nights. Because of mounting medical bills, she was worried she might lose her home.

Marianna took a look at “What is your life worth?” — Marianna is a military veteran with over 16 years of service, and is a college graduate with degrees in political science and human resource. This is what she thinks…

Ever the advocate for women’s health and the pursuit of advancing women’s issues in medical science, I was reading Self Magazine’s article bought today while flipping through the stacks of magazines to buy while contemplating what to make for dinner (okay I digress……) in regards to the journey of several women plagued with cancer and the expensive drugs out there being sold to save their lives. — read her full post here

As a nurse working on an oncology unit many years ago, I would sometimes think about whether or not I would choose to have debilitating chemo treatments if I were ever diagnosed with an incurable cancer. Not that I wouldn’t want to live, I just sometimes wondered, if I were faced with the dilemma of quality vs. quantity, what would I choose? I never thought back then, that I (or anyone else for that matter) might someday be faced with not even having a choice. But that is exactly what is happening today.

You have a job, have health insurance, even have a little savings. You’re set for anything, right? Wrong. If a major medical crisis hits your family, you could find yourself left with almost nothing.

Anne Cortes was diagnosed with aggresive breast cancer in 2005. In the following 18 months, that diagnosis cost her $30,000. — read full article

Even though I know it’s true, I still find it hard to believe that there are people that will die because they can not afford a known treatment for their cancer. We live in the richest country in the world, but some of us will still be faced with the inability to afford life saving treatments…How can that be? I guess nothing should surprise me, considering we have a president that doesn’t even think all kids deserve to have quality health care. We live in a country where the very rich and the very poor are guaranteed medical treatment, but the rest of us need to live in fear of being hung out to dry if we ever face a life threatening illness. There’s just something seriously wrong with that.

African-American Women and Breast Cancer Treatment

Despite the abundance of public education about mammography and the importance of early detection and treatment over the years, the numbers continue to show a marked disparity between Black women’s survival from this disease as compared to other women in the United States. Why? Because even though we do a good job of providing mammograms to women who can’t afford them, we don’t do a very good job of making treatment affordable. We’ve got to realize that we don’t do poor or uninsured women a favor by offering free mammograms, telling them they have breast cancer, but not offering them a way to pay for their treatment.

It’s breast cancer awareness month, and what I have become most aware of, is the hypocrisy and unfairness of the health care system. We have insurance companies that just decide what treatments they will cover and what ones they won’t, regardless of what a physician may think is necessary. And, pharmaceutical companies that charge outrageous prices for medications, based on fair trade, not fair practice.

Nearly 15 years ago, Bristol-Myers Squibb faced congressional hearings over plans to charge up to $6,000 for a six-month treatment of Taxol, then a groundbreaking ovarian cancer drug. Now new biotech cancer drugs routinely cost $25,000 to $50,000 a year, with some running close to $100,000. The cost of cancer-fighting drugs went up 27 percent in 2006, compared with less than 2 percent for other drugs, according to the most recent Medco Drug Trend Report. And many of the new medications are being tested in combination, so patients may be faced with not one but two or even three drugs that cost $50,000 each. — read full article

We live in a world that doesn’t just put a price tag on people’s lives, but also decides that many of those lives are simply worthless. What is your life worth? What about your mother? Your son? Your daughter? And more importantly, do you have the money to afford what that life may cost someday?

This is an excerpt from a post by Barbara Principe that was in the Huffington Post yesterday…

On a warm spring day in New York City two years ago, my doctor told me that my cancer had progressed to stage 4, that it had metastasized to my lungs, and that I could expect a shortened life span, with perhaps months or years to live.

A million questions ran through my head. Not the dreamy questions like, will I see my daughter graduate from college or will I make it through another Christmas? No. The questions running through my head were those that anyone else who is living and working with cancer has to ask themselves. Will my health insurance cover me if I move to be closer with family and friends? How will I afford to live if I can’t work? If I can’t work and I lose my health insurance, how will I pay for the treatment that keeps me alive?

What is your life worth? It seems like a question none of us should ever have to ask ourselves, but many of us may someday have to.

Contributing Editor Catherine Morgan
also at Women 4 Hope and CatherineBlogs.com

above image from

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