Breast cancer treatment is most effective when all parts of the treatment plan are completed. So, it is important to follow the treatment plan (for medications and other therapies) prescribed by your health care provider in terms of:
Sometimes completing breast cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, hormone therapy and radiation therapy may be hard.
For example, when :
Even though it may be hard, it is vital to follow your treatment plan. Medications, such as oral chemotherapy and hormone therapy (tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors), only work if you take them as prescribed. And, radiation therapy is most effective when you finish the entire course.
Learn about getting good care (quality of care).
It is important to be honest with your health care provider about whether or not you are taking your medication as prescribed. If your provider believes you are taking all of your medication, and you are not, this can cause problems.
For example, if a medication does not appear to be working, your provider may think this is due to the medication itself (when instead the medication was not taken as prescribed). So, your provider may decide to try a different type of treatment when in fact a change was not needed.
If you have side effects, tell your provider right away. He/she may be able to help. Having fewer side effects can help you complete your treatment plan.
Learn more about talking with your health care provider.
You may face many practical challenges, such as:
Your health care provider may be able to offer ways to help solve these problems.
Hospital discharge planners, patient relation offices, patient service offices, social workers and patient navigators at hospitals or managed care organizations may be helpful too.
Learn more about transportation and lodging assistance.
Learn more about financial assistance for prescription drugs and other treatment costs.
Prescription drug costs can quickly become a financial burden for you and your family.
Medicare and many insurance providers offer prescription drug plans. One may already be included in your policy or you may be able to buy an extra plan for prescriptions.
Some drugs are off-patent and a generic form may be available. Generic drugs cost less than the name brands, but are just as effective.
You may also qualify for programs that help with drug costs or offer low-cost or free prescriptions.
Learn more about insurance plans and prescription drug assistance programs.
Radiation therapy is almost always given after lumpectomy to lower the risk of breast cancer recurrence and increase the chances of survival [4,14].
Radiation therapy for early breast cancer usually involves treatment once a day, 5 days a week, for 3-7 weeks. Getting to and from the treatment center this many times can be hard, especially if you live far away or if children or other family members rely on you for care.
If you need a ride to and from treatment or help with child care or elder care, there are resources that can help.
Don’t hesitate to ask for help from your co-survivors or contact organizations that offer help with transportation, lodging, child care or elder care. It is very important to complete your radiation therapy without gaps or delays.
Learn more about radiation therapy.
Side effects are one reason people have trouble completing oral (taken by mouth) chemotherapy .
Although most side effects go away shortly after chemotherapy ends, preventing or treating symptoms can help you complete your course of chemotherapy.
You should never feel you have to endure side effects, such as nausea. Talk with your health care provider about any side effects you are having. He/she may be able to prescribe medications to treat your side effects or change your treatment plan to reduce them.
Learn more about the side effects of chemotherapy.
If you have trouble remembering to take oral chemotherapy or medications to treat side effects, a daily pillbox or setting an alarm on your watch or mobile device (you may be able to download an app) may help .
Learn more about chemotherapy.
Learn about financial assistance for chemotherapy drugs.
Susan G. Komen's position on fairness in oral chemotherapy drug coverage
While intravenous (IV) chemotherapy is a well-known part of cancer treatment, an increasing number of chemotherapy drugs today can be taken by mouth (oral). Insurance policies have not kept pace with these advances in chemotherapy. As a result, people often find themselves facing high out-of-pocket costs when filling their prescriptions for oral chemotherapy (sometimes costing thousands of dollars per month). This disparity exists because IV chemotherapy is usually covered under a health insurance plan’s medical benefit, whereas oral chemotherapy is usually covered under a plan’s prescription drug benefit.
High prescription drug costs are a barrier to care. High costs can prevent people from getting the medications prescribed by their health care providers. No one should be forced to get less appropriate treatment simply because an insurer provides more coverage for IV chemotherapy than oral chemotherapy.
Komen supports efforts at the state and federal levels that require insurers to provide coverage for oral breast cancer medications at a rate no less favorable than what they provide for IV medications to ensure patients have access to affordable, appropriate treatment for their cancer.
If you have transportation, child care or elder care issues that make getting to your chemotherapy treatments difficult, there may be resources that can help.
Don’t hesitate to ask for help from your co-survivors or contact organizations that offer help with transportation, lodging, child care or elder care. It is very important to complete your chemotherapy.
Hormone therapy with tamoxifen and/or aromatase inhibitors is typically prescribed for at least 5 years (and sometimes, up to 10 years of treatment).
The length of treatment coupled with side effects can make it difficult to complete hormone therapy.
Although the menopausal symptoms related to hormone therapy can be hard to deal with, there are things you can do that may ease these side effects. If you have side effects, talk with your health care provider about ways to treat them.
To get the most benefit out of hormone therapy, you need to take the full course of treatment. People who complete the full course have higher rates of survival [64,150].
If you have trouble remembering to take your hormone therapy, a daily pillbox or setting an alarm on your watch or mobile device (you may be able to download an app) may help . However, you do not need to panic if you miss a day or two.
Learn more about hormone therapy.
Learn more about treating menopausal symptoms.
Learn about financial assistance for hormone therapy drugs.
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