BREAST CANCER: UNINSURED WOMEN HAVE LESS PLASTIC SURGERY
Uninsured women "frequently are not offered reconstructiveThis is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.
surgery after a mastectomy," according to a study released
Wednesday. DALLAS MORNING NEWS reports that the procedure was
discussed with about one in five indigent women who had undergone
a mastectomy, and only about 4.5% of the women had the
reconstructive surgery, according to an investigation presented
during the annual meeting of the American Society of Plastic and
Reconstructive Surgeons. Dr. Sharon Kalina of Loma Linda
University Medical Center in California, said, "The perception of
the physicians is that they (poor women) have too many burdens in
life to want reconstruction."
OVERLOOKED: Kalina, who conducted the study, said that
poor women may be overlooked for reconstructive surgery because
they are more likely to have other untreated medical conditions
such as diabetes or high blood pressure that might complicate the
procedure. Kalina added, however, that the study did not show
that doctors were "intentionally keeping uninsured women from
plastic surgery to try to save taxpayer money." She conducted
the study by reviewing 10 years of CA-based Riverside General
Hospital patient records.
NO SURPRISE: MORNING NEWS reports that the results of the
study "did not surprise" Rod Rohrich, chair of plastic surgery at
the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.
"I know, having trained and worked in other parts of the country,
patients aren't offered that," he said. He added, however, that
the situation at Dallas' Parkland Memorial Hospital, where "every
patient gets the opportunity to discuss reconstruction," is
"probably unique." He added, "It is unacceptable today to not
tell a breast cancer patient that there is an option to restore
MATTER OF IMPORTANCE: Kalina said that even if women do not
have the surgery immediately following their mastectomies, "it is
important for women to know that they could have reconstruction
later." She noted that roughly 50% of U.S. women who undergo
mastectomies have reconstructive surgery. "At the very least,
she said, the plastic surgeons can make certain that women leave
the hospital with a prescription for a prosthesis." She added
that offering breast reconstruction should be considered a part
of the entire treatment and that insurance status should make no
difference. "This is not cosmetic," Kalina said, "This is
reconstructive" (Beil, 11/14).