Fact: 70% of Women Don’t Know that Breast Reconstruction is Covered

Fact: 70% of Women Don’t Know that Breast Reconstruction is Covered

1024 683 The RealSelf Team

As you’re aware, women recovering from breast cancer are often faced with confusing choices in breast reconstruction – but we’re talking about what’s covered by law under insurance. A coalition called BRAVE (Breast Restoration AdVocacy and Education) wants to change all that.

  • BRAVE was started in 2013 when it became apparent that many women did not have easy access to info about breast reconstruction rights.
  • Founder Christine Grogan had deep knowledge of the complex breast restoration process through her work with Pfizer, Allergan, and KCI, and knew that women needed a trusted resource.
  • Only 30 percent of women are aware that they have a right to reconstruction by federal law.
  • March 21 is now officially-recognized as National Breast “Restoration” Day, to promote education of restoration rights for all women.

“When BRAVE was founded there was no nonprofit focusing on breast restoration, or reconstruction,” said Grogan in a release. “BRAVE was started to help women know their options after breast cancer removal so there could be positive focus on the next phase of their journey. We call it ‘restoration’ since the result is women restored to their best self, however they choose.”

Part of BRAVE’s mission is getting doctors and plastic surgeons to help educate their patients.

“When I started my practice 10 years ago, and I had done my breast fellowship, I was seeing some of the issues facing with patients not being informed,” says BRAVE’s medical adviser Dr. Allen Gabriel, a plastic surgeon in Vancouver, WA. “Over and over, I would see patients who had not had reconstruction say, ‘I wish I would’ve had reconstruction. I didn’t know it was covered.’ ”

  • This year marks the 5th annual BRAVE Day.
  • It’s also the 20th anniversary of the Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act of 1998, the federal law that gave protection to patients choosing to have restoration following a mastectomy.
  • It will be BRAVE’s the biggest year yet for expansion plans.

Related: Breast Reconstruction: Frequently Asked Questions.

“BRAVE got its 501(c)(3) a year ago, and we just started fundraising last year,” Grogan says. “It’s all been self-funded to this point, so this is our first going big.”

Next steps?

  • Build awareness.
  • Add “BRAVE Centers” around the country.
  • Add supportive plastic surgeons and doctors who want to be part of the network.
  • Educate patients on rights and helping them figure out options.
  • Eventually provide financial assistance for women in need.

“We use ‘restoration’ instead of reconstruction, because you are encompassing surgical but you are also looking at patients who need external prostheses that should be covered,” Dr. Gabriel says. “For every woman, restoration means something different. We didn’t want it to be about surgery, but about education and advocacy to help us get the word out.”

BRAVE’s site offers:

  • Info for anyone exploring options and rights – also in Spanish.
  • A learning place for breast cancer patients, survivors, and supporting family members.
  • More details of the federal law – that insurance must cover breast restoration following surgery, which many women still do not know.

Learn more about BRAVE and restoration rights. Become a medical practice that supports BRAVE. Visit bravecoalition.org.