Monday 19 March 2018

Breast cancer patients face cuts to products needed after surgery - but HSE insists move is to 'create equality'

Stock photo
Stock photo

Eilish O'Regan and Laura Larkin

MANY breast cancer patients who have undergone surgery are facing changes to their supply of post mastectomy products from tomorrow- but the HSE has denied it is a cut.

Currently, post breast surgery, a patient is supplied and fitted with a breast prosthesis and two surgical bras to hold the prosthesis in place.

If she has a medical card she may then be fitted and supplied with two surgical bras every year and a new breast prosthesis every two years if required.

However, the HSE has said that from tomorrow, July 1, there is a new allowance in place.

Women will now only be provided with an allowance of €68.50 for one breast prosthesis every two years.

They will no longer be provided with surgical bras, other than those supplied when leaving the hospital.

In a statement today the HSE denied the changes amount to a cut to cancer supports for patients.

“There is no cost cutting aspect to the new guidelines introduced by the HSE in June for post mastectomy products and wigs/hairpieces,” it said.

The spokesperson said that in response to issues relating to limited access and inconsistency regarding equity of access to post mastectomy products and wigs/hairpieces the HSE established an Expert Group to look at introducing equity.

"The Expert Group was made up of clinicians, the Irish Cancer Society, the National Cancer Control Programme and operational staff who worked diligently to develop the new policies.  These new policies are part of a wider  improvement programme that ensures all patients across the country have equal access to services.

"Previously some areas had limited or no services whilst others had an unlimited access. The policies were introduced to ensure standard guidelines and equal and consistent access based on a patients’ need and not their geographic location," the HSE said in a statement.

"The new policy now extends access on an on-going basis to all women for post mastectomy products  -  previously these products were only accessible to medical card holders.

"The HSE has worked closely with the Irish Cancer Society in developing the new policies and guidance.  The new national policies come into effect in June 2017 and will help cancer patients during their treatment or after surgery, said the spokesperson.

“There is no question of reducing costs related to post mastectomy products and wigs/hairpieces; these policies are ensuring equal access based on a patients’ need and not their geographic location," the health service added.

Sorcha Lavelle, from Rathfarnham, was diagnosed with breast cancer at aged 22, said the move by the HSE might be the best course of action as it allows all women with the disease access to the same supports.

Ms Lavelle (now 23), who recently finished her treatment, underwent a mastectomy and had a partial reconstruction.

Sorcha Lavelle was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 22 and has undergone a mastectomy.
Sorcha Lavelle was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 22 and has undergone a mastectomy.

She said that the prosthesis she purchased herself was a huge boost at a time when she was under a lot of strain.

"If I hadn't had my reconstruction and prosthesis I don't know where my mental health would be now," she said.

Using a prosthesis allows a woman who has had a mastectomy to feel more evened out she added.

"Whatever about losing your hair - and that is quite tough - it grows back, once you have had a mastectomy there is no going back."

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