Dr Don Dizon Highlights Services Insurance Should Cover for Women Who Had Breast Cancer

There are medications, procedures, and techniques that insurers could do a better job covering that would improve quality for women after breast cancer, said Don S. Dizon, MD, FACP, FASCO, director of Women's Cancers at the Lifespan Cancer Institute, director of medical oncology at Rhode Island Hospital, and associate professor of medicine at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

Are there services that payers are not covering that could improve quality of life for women after breast cancer?
There are certainly some services that are not typically covered today by insurance, particularly for that group of women who had breast cancer—and if you look at that group, those women who are premenopausal, because our therapies, probably now more than in the last five years, are geared toward estrogen deprivation—which means women that are actively menstruating at the time of breast cancer are being put into treatment-induced ovarian failure and accelerated menopause. [Some] of these consequences are significant changes in vaginal health and the experience of sexual function as well as intimacy.

Things insurance companies can do a better job of [providing] are consultative services, particularly for survivorship needs in a sexual health program. There are certainly some emerging modalities that are available but are not covered services, such as vaginal laser therapies, which have been shown to be effective for post-menopausal patients, as well as some medications. The ones I’m thinking of that do have use in very selective situations might be things like as PE-5 inhibitors, for those women who are experiencing sexual dysfunction after cancer but are also on an anti-depressant for example.

So yes, there are some medications, some procedures, some techniques that could be covered more broadly as well as sexual health visits—and I’m hoping we’re going to see more covered than not covered services in the future.
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