Don’t deny patients access to best cancer care centers

I was heartsick to read that some insurers are denying cancer patients access to treatment at Roswell Park and other comprehensive cancer care centers. This would be reprehensible under any circumstances – and certainly not cost-effective under most – but for me it’s personal.

In January 2013 my 42-year-old daughter learned that she had stage 4 breast cancer. Following chemotherapy, her oncologist referred her to Roswell Park for a surgical procedure that had the potential to halt the progression of the metastatic disease in her liver, allowing her to return to full-time employment, caring for her home and family – in essence, an almost normal lifestyle.

Unfortunately, the surgery revealed an area of disease larger than imaging studies had suggested, and the procedure could not be performed. However, I remember how much promise this “medical miracle” held for all of us – a promise it still holds for many. No patient should be denied access to a comprehensive cancer care center or the potentially life-saving treatments offered there.

I also dispute the insurers’ explanation that denying such specialized care will “hold down costs.” Had the procedure worked for my daughter as it has for others, her insurer would have borne the cost of one surgery and continued medical observation. Instead, in less than a year, varying rounds of chemotherapy, drugs to mitigate their side effects and numerous scans to assess her treatment’s effectiveness have resulted in expenditures that surely total in the tens of thousands of dollars. I hope and pray that when Roswell Park can offer another breakthrough procedure, my daughter’s options won’t be dictated by her insurance carrier.

Educating myself about my daughter’s cancer treatment has led to discoveries about the arbitrary nature and vagaries of medical insurance coverage and given me more to cry about than her disease.

Margaret S. Dick