A Delayed Diagnosis
- Gym manager Jen Byles, 37, was healthy in all areas of her life, but when she found a lump in her breast, she put off screening because she could not afford to pay the medical bills.
- A few months later, her lump had grown to 4 cm and she couldn’t rest comfortably or even perform certain exercises. After finally catching up financially, she ultimately had no choice but to face her fears head on. A biopsy revealed she had breast cancer.
- There are a number of nonprofit and advocacy organizations that have programs in place to financially support those who can’t pay for the costs associated with their care. If you need to get checked, call your doctor today.
“I thought it was a bit different, but didn’t worry about it too much,” the Sydney native admitted to DailyMail. Prior to feeling a mass, she had a sharp pain in her chest for around six months. Still, Jen wasn’t too worried and was seemingly in denial.Read More
Jen finally had a mammogram and ultrasound lined up, but put it off yet again because unfortunately her dog got sick. Due to the cost of care, she was forced to choose.
A few months later, her lump had grown to 4 cm and she couldn’t rest comfortably or even perform certain exercises.
After finally catching up financially, she ultimately had no choice but to face her fears head on. A biopsy revealed she had breast cancer.
“I went to the appointment alone and the doctor told me I had an invasive carcinoma in my left breast,” she said of her diagnosis. “At this point I was just in shock.”
Jen explained that she has no family history of cancer or other disease. “I have never had any health issues or even broken a bone,” she said. “All of this feels so surreal, especially with all of the appointments and tests.”
To make matters worse, Jen was then told the disease is advanced and has spread to her bones. She now understandably suffers from regret and wishes she could do it all over again.
“I am in quite a good position in life, I had the money to pay for the up front costs but I still delayed them because other expensive things happened at the same time,’ she said. “It makes me wonder how many people put tests off even longer or avoid them altogether because they can’t afford the upfront costs or to wait to get the money back from Medicare.”
Jen’s final blow was finding out she would likely not be able to have children. The cancer was too advanced to risk the process of egg-harvesting.
“They decided there wasn’t time for me, and I am still coming to terms with that grief,” she shared. “In all honesty I never knew if I would have children, but it is so surreal when that decision is taken away.”
As Jen faces her new life of living with cancer, she wants to share her story as much as she can so that other women don’t make the mistake of delaying their breast cancer screening, especially if you have concerning symptoms.
Don’t Delay Breast Cancer Screening for Financial Reasons
In addition to fear and avoidance, many patients, like Jen, will indeed put off getting checked out due to financial reasons. While it’s important to never beat yourself up after the fact, it is vital that you never use money as an excuse to delay screening. There is help out there, and life is simply too precious to not put your health first.
Know that there are resources out there that can make your financial life a bit easier as you fight cancer.
SurvivorNet has complied a guide to help you get the resources you need to pay the bills and keep them from going to collections. (But if they do, your credit score won’t be impacted anymore, which is definitely a weight off people’s shoulders.
First off, it’s common for doctors to get on the phone and advocate on your behalf with your insurance company. Plus, many drug companies and clinical trials also offer patient assistance programs.
Dr. Allyson Ocean, a medical oncologist at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, previously told SurvivorNet she’s on the phone with insurance companies nearly every day, trying to make sure her patients can get the treatment they need, and get it paid for.
“My best advice to work around the system of whether or not drugs or tests can be covered for cancer is to make sure you have an advocate in your field working for you,” Dr. Ocean said. “The frustrating part for me is that sometimes we even have to educate the insurance companies and say, ‘There’s a reason why I want to use this medicine.’”
Dr. Nina Shah, a hematologist at the University of California San Francisco, previously told SurvivorNet that when it comes to the high costs associated with cancer treatment — sometimes called “financial toxicity” — it can be helpful for patients to speak with social workers.
The social workers at your cancer care clinic can help guide you through the various options.
“The best way to look at this and find the resources that are available is to speak with the social worker associated with (your cancer center),” Dr. Shah said. “Because that person usually knows what resources are available and what you can do to access them.”
Physicians and the navigators who help patients have said that when it comes to the cost of a specific cancer drug or treatment, the assistance programs offered by pharmaceutical companies can help those of us who can’t afford the full cost.
Most big drug companies have programs like these in place. While there may be maximum income thresholds, it can be useful to simply ask. In the case of newer medications, drugmakers often will make exceptions as they want as many people as possible taking their products.
There are a number of nonprofit and advocacy organizations that have programs in place to financially support those who can’t pay for the costs associated with their care.
While it may seem impossible in the moment, just remember that paying off your medical bills is possible, especially with help.