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Department of Health and Human Services Implements Awareness Campaign for Breast Cancer Patient Education Act

Arlington Heights, IL – The Department of Health and Human Services will take the first steps toward implementing the Breast Cancer Patient Education Act on Breast Reconstruction Awareness Day, October 19.

A top legislative priority for the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), the Breast Cancer Patient Education Act (BCPEA), which was signed by President Obama in December of 2015, requires the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to plan and implement an education campaign to inform breast cancer patients of the availability and coverage of breast reconstruction, prostheses and other options.

"We're excited that the Department of Health and Human Services is implementing the Breast Cancer Patient Education Act," said ASPS president Debra Johnson, MD. "ASPS worked for years to pass the legislation and has been at the ready since the bill's passage to assist in implementation any way we can. We applaud HHS for making this important new policy a reality."

The educational materials are designed to inform women that breast reconstruction is possible at the time of breast cancer surgery, that it may be delayed until after other treatments, or that they may choose not to have reconstruction and instead opt for prostheses or breast forms.

As part of the BCPEA educational outreach, the Department of Health and Human Services, and several other agencies such as the Office of Women's Health, will host a fact sheet from the National Cancer Institute about breast reconstruction on their respective websites.

Other activities include a social media campaign featuring tweets, graphics, Twitter chats, and Facebook live events in English and Spanish. Outreach to older individuals includes BCPEA information on their toll free call center (1-877-696-6775).

While some eligible women with breast cancer undergo breast reconstruction, many women – particularly those of racial and ethnic minority groups – are not informed about their care options. This is particularly concerning as African-American women under the age of 40 have a greater incidence of breast cancer than Caucasian women of the same age. Furthermore, breast cancer is the most common cancer among Hispanic women.

Since passage of the Women's Health Care and Cancer Rights Act in 1998, health plans that offer breast cancer coverage have been required to provide coverage for breast reconstruction and prostheses. However, less than half of all women requiring a mastectomy are currently offered breast reconstruction surgery and fewer than one in five elect to undergo the procedure.

While there is little consensus as to why women do not choose to undergo the procedure following their mastectomy, a study in The Journal of the American Medical Association confirmed that almost one-fifth of women who do not undergo breast reconstruction reported a lack of knowledge regarding the procedure.

About ASPS

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) is the world's largest organization of board-certified plastic surgeons. Representing more than 7,000 Member Surgeons, the Society is recognized as a leading authority and information source on aesthetic and reconstructive plastic surgery. ASPS comprises more than 94 percent of all board-certified plastic surgeons in the United States. Founded in 1931, the Society represents physicians certified by The American Board of Plastic Surgery or The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. ASPS advances quality care to plastic surgery patients by encouraging high standards of training, ethics, physician practice and research in plastic surgery.

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