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Personalized Medicine Can Save Lives

Personalized medicine is changing the way doctors treat complex diseases and is continuing to advance as scientists find new and innovative personalized diagnostic and treatment options. A personalized medicine approach allows physicians to better understand disease drivers in each patient, and to select a treatment that increases the likelihood of a successful outcome. Unfortunately, these progressive personalized treatments are not always covered under a patient’s insurance. This means that patients can potentially be blocked from receiving a treatment that their doctor recommends as the best option for their diagnosis.

Below, you can hear from three strong women who have battled breast cancer. Each story is as unique as the patient telling it, but all three of these women know firsthand how personalized medicine can save lives.

Alicia’s Story

In 2003, when Alicia was 34 years old, she was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer. When she was first diagnosed, Alicia’s doctor knew that she needed to go through genetic testing because of her family history with cancer.

Based on the test results, Alicia’s doctors determined that it was best to monitor her through both MRIs and mammograms. However, this was not considered “standard of care” and as a result, her insurance company was hesitant to cover the treatments. Her doctors pushed for coverage because of Alicia’s genetic testing results and family history, and ultimately, the insurance company agreed to cover her care.

During one of her last MRIs, Alicia discovered her cancer had resurfaced. She recalls that the cancer surfaced through the MRI screen but not the mammogram. Had she been only using the mammogram, doctors would not have caught the cancer as early as they did.

Six years later, Alicia is continuing with her screening and is cancer free. She recognizes that she was fortunate to have had her treatments covered by her insurance, but she also recognizes that that is too often not the case. Alicia is continuing to advocate for patients in her hometown of Chicago and all across the country, and hopes to help expand access to precision medicine.

Melissa’s Story

In 2006, Melissa contacted her gynecologist immediately after finding a lump in her breast. Her doctor assured her that it was probably nothing but recommended going through a number of tests to be sure. Looking back, Melissa is thankful that her gynecologist made this recommendation and didn’t think she was too young to have breast cancer. At just 35 years old, she was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer.

Over a decade ago, at the time of Melissa’s initial diagnosis, innovative personalized options were just starting to emerge. Fortunately, Melissa was given personalized treatment based off genetic testing that she believes was a critical factor in combating her cancer. Twelve years later, she is proud to be cancer free.

Melissa lives in Columbus, Ohio where she now leads cancer support groups. She is happy to hear stories of patients and survivors who increasingly have more personal treatment options available to them, and is grateful to oncologists for all that they do.

Patricia’s Story

When Patricia was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015, she was concerned that she was being pushed into a one-size-fits-all approach for treatment by her local physicians.. After talking with friends and family, Patricia decided to seek treatment at a nearby academic center. Once there, she was provided with a personalized treatment plan that began with testing to determine her specific type of cancer. The results of those tests put her on a path that has led to Patricia being cancer free.

While Patricia’s insurance covered much of her treatment, the insurance company refused to pay for genetic testing that could better inform the future of her health, and that of her three daughters, despite these tests being recommended by her doctor.

Three years later, Patricia is still cancer free and working as the head cook of the local elementary school in her town. Looking back, she is grateful for the oncologists and hospital that treated her and hopes other patients can be fortunate enough to have the kind of personalized care that she did.