The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

September 5, 2013

Treatment assistance program helps breast cancer patients

By MIRANDA BAINES
THE DAILY SOUTHERNER

TARBORO — Breast cancer treatment can be costly, but some help is on the way for patients in Edgecombe and surrounding counties through the Breast Cancer Treatment Assistance and Survivorship Program. The program can pay up to $2,500 toward medical expenses.

“There are a number of people in our community who have experienced breast cancer and a lot of them have outstanding medical bills,” said Scott Phillips, oncology patient navigator for Vidant Edgecombe Hospital.

Those interested in the program must fill out an application by Sept. 16. and must live in Edgecombe, Nash, Halifax, Wilson or Northampton County.

“The application is based on income, and you must have a breast cancer diagnosis. You don’t have to currently be in treatment. You can be a long-time survivor if you have outstanding medical bills,” Phillips said.

People with insurance are welcome to apply for the program, as long as they meet the income requirements of 200 percent of the federal poverty guideline, which is $22,980 for a one-person household.

“The cost of chemotherapy and radiation and surgery and all the things that go with it can be in the 10’s or even 100’s of thousands of dollars,” Phillips said.

Patients with only Medicare and no secondary insurance, for instance, only have 80 percent of their bill taken care of, so a patient with a $10,000 bill would still owe $2,000 after insurance coverage. Even patients with medical insurance sometimes have high co-pays for doctor’s visits, said Phillips.

Treatment-related expenses include medications, co-pays, holistic services, exercise, physical therapy, treatment-related bills, chemotherapy drugs and diagnostic (follow-up scanning). The program can also help with expenses related to side effects of treatment, such as lymphedema “sleeves” to help alleviate swelling and pain caused by the removal of cancerous lymph nodes, said Phillips.

Transportation assistance is also available, and that could come in handy to Edgecombe County cancer patients who have to drive to Rocky Mount or Greenville for radiation treatments.

“Included in the grant is a fuel card program. I can get them a fuel card to help them getting back and forth from medical appointments,” Phillips said.

The program also provides services to survivors, including support for items such as specialty bras, wigs, prosthetics, group support, emotional/mental health services and family support. Survivors also will be linked to local support groups, foundations and other support services.

The Susan G. Komen North Carolina Triangle to the Coast Affiliate provides the funding for the program. To make an appointment to fill out an application, call Vidant Oncology-Tarboro at 641-7714.