October 1, 2014 | by Tami Dennis
This time of year, how can anyone not think pink? Through the power of pastel packaging, October has been etched permanently into the American public's consciousness as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The color pink is now synonymous with breast cancer.
Suffice to say, awareness has been raised.
Now it's time to make the most of that awareness. Now it's time for action. That action can come when you choose a health plan, when you choose an oncologist, when you donate or even when you shop for a purse, a tape dispenser or a really great moisturizer.
* If you're choosing a health plan, choose one that provides access to top-of-the-line expertise.
Research by Julie Wolfson, M.D., M.S.H.S., assistant professor of City of Hope's Department of Pediatrics and Department of Population Sciences, has found that, in cancer, where you get care matters.
Her research was presented at the recent annual meeting of the American Society for Clinical Oncology and described in this Breakthroughs post: "After adjusting for clinical and demographic differences, patients who received cancer care at a comprehensive cancer center had a lower mortality rate than those who received care at other facilities. This improvement in survival was seen across multiple diagnoses, including cancers of the breast, lung, liver, stomach, pancreas and oral tissues."
Today, too many plans are omitting cancer centers. The trend is called "narrowing of networks" and, if you have cancer, it's not a trend you want to support.
Just ask any breast cancer patient about the impact of expertise in specialized cancer treatment and diagnosis. Says breast cancer survivor Luisa Najera, a mother of two, about her diagnosis with Stage 3 locally advanced breast cancer: "The first time it was diagnosed as a water cyst, I believed them. The second time I should have at that point said, ‘I need a second opinion’ and maybe my diagnosis would have been different.”
* If you're choosing an oncologist, choose a top-tier expert in your type of cancer.
City of Hope is not just a comprehensive cancer center, the highest designation bestowed by the National Cancer Institute. It's also a founding member of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, a network defined by its experts. The NCCN describes itself in this way:
"As the arbiter of high-quality cancer care, NCCN promotes the importance of continuous quality improvement and recognizes the significance of creating clinical practice guidelines appropriate for use by patients, clinicians, and other health care decision-makers."
It describes its members this way:
"World-renowned experts from NCCN Member Institutions diagnose and treat patients with a broad spectrum of cancers and are recognized for dealing with complex, aggressive, or rare cancers. NCCN Member Institutions pioneered the concept of the multidisciplinary team approach to patient care and conduct innovative research that contributes significantly to understanding, diagnosing, and treating cancer. NCCN programs offer access to expert physicians, superior treatment, and quality and safety initiatives that continuously improve the effectiveness and efficiency of cancer care."
Don't assume your physician has the in-depth experience necessary to treat your specific cancer. Breast cancer survivor Kommah McDowell was given a 5 percent chance of survival at another institution. Then she came to City of Hope. Today, she says: "I'm not supposed to be here." With City of Hope's help, she defied the odds.
* If you're giving, make sure your gift will have impact.
Research must come before the breakthrough discoveries, the new treatments and the lengthened lifespan. Give to an institution that understands the power of research.
"We have a lot of the newest therapies to help women find the right treatment for them," she says. "We have an extensive research program with over 20 clinical trials, many of which are not available to the general public."
Breast cancer patients need access to the latest, and the best, breast cancer research and breakthroughs. So do all cancer patients.
* If you're shopping, make sure your purchase goes to research.
Money donated to City of Hope in the form of purchases from our partners goes directly into cancer research, including breast cancer research. It doesn't support advertising or awareness.
So today, with awareness raised – for which we should all be thankful – use that heightened awareness to take action.
Learn more about breast cancer treatment and research at City of Hope.
Learn more about becoming a patient or getting a second opinion by visiting our website or by calling 800-826-HOPE (4673). City of Hope staff will explain what's required for a consult at City of Hope and help you determine, before you come in, whether or not your insurance will pay for the appointment.