Custom prostheses for cancer survivors

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA)– It’s no secret, cancer can be devastating to a person’s body. One Illinois senator is calling on Congress to pass a bill that could help breast cancer survivors feel like themselves again.

Judy Mowder of Pleasant Plains is breast cancer survivor. She had a double mastectomy back in 2007. “It’s part of your femininity and all of sudden, they aren’t there,” Mowder said.

After cancer treatment, many survivors opt to have breast reconstruction surgery but surgery isn’t always the best option for survivors like Mowder. “I wasn’t feeling well after all the treatment and I decided not to have reconstruction, although I was told about it at the time, and to have prostheses.”

Doctors say prostheses are a subtle way to help patients to feel like themselves again.

“Prosthesis is a gel like substance that is in the shape of a breast mound that a patient can put into a special bra that will hold it in place over their breasts or where their breasts used to be,” said SIU Medicine plastic surgeon Nicole Sommer, MD. “In their clothing, they look like they did before their surgery so it just gives them that confidence.”

That confidence, however, comes with a cost. “They are 368 dollars each one. Medicare paid 80 percent,” Mowder said.

They would not be covered if Mowder wanted a customized pair.
Senator Tammy Duckworth said breasts are the only part of the human body not covered by Medicare for a custom replacement.
She’s promoting the Breast Cancer Patient Equity Act to make sure women have access to the prosthesis they need.

“That would be wonderful, that really would,” Mowder about the possibility of lawmakers getting the measure passed.

Mowder said she is excited to see lawmakers advocating for this. She hopes they push for lymphedema sleeves next as Medicare does not cover those costs at all for certain sizes.

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