Breast cancer treatment is most effective when all parts of the treatment plan are completed. So, it's important to follow the treatment plan (for medications and other therapies) prescribed by your health care provider in terms of:
We know it may be hard to complete breast cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, hormone therapy and radiation therapy.
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’s 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 aren’t, this can cause problems.
For example, if a medication doesn’t appear to be working, your provider may think this is due to the medication itself (when instead the medication was not taken as prescribed).
In this case, your provider may decide to try a different type of treatment when in fact a change wasn’t needed.
If you have side effects, tell your provider right away. Your provider 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 have practical challenges, such as:
Your health care provider may be to help.
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 have a generic form. 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 [6,13].
Radiation therapy for early breast cancer usually is given 5 days a week, for 3-7 weeks.
Getting to and from the treatment center so often 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 may be resources to help.
Family and friends often want to help, but don’t know how. These are ways they can help you.
Sometimes, there are programs that help with local or long-distance transportation and lodging (if you need a place to stay overnight during treatment).
There are also programs that help with child care and elder care costs.
Don’t hesitate to ask for help. It’s 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.
Your provider may be able to prescribe medications to treat your side effects or change your treatment plan to reduce them.
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 more about the side effects of chemotherapy.
Learn about financial assistance for chemotherapy drugs.
Susan G. Komen®'s position on fairness in oral chemotherapy drug coverage
Intravenous (IV) chemotherapy is a well-known part of cancer treatment. Today, however, some chemotherapy drugs can be taken by mouth (oral).
Insurance policies have not kept pace with these advances. 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.
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 a month).
High prescription drug costs are a barrier to care. They can prevent people from getting the medications prescribed by their health care providers.
No one should be forced to get less appropriate treatment because an insurer gives more coverage for IV chemotherapy than oral chemotherapy.
Komen supports state and federal efforts to require insurers to provide the same or better coverage for oral breast cancer medications as they do for IV medications. This would help ensure patients have access to affordable, appropriate treatment.
Getting to and from the treatment can be hard, especially if you live far away.
If you need a ride to and from treatment or have child care or elder care needs that make getting to IV chemotherapy treatments difficult, there may be resources to help.
Family and friends often want to help, but don’t know how. These are ways they may be helpful to you.
Don’t hesitate to ask for help. It’s very important to complete your chemotherapy.
Hormone therapy with tamoxifen and/or aromatase inhibitors is prescribed for 5-10 years. The length of treatment coupled with side effects can make it tough to complete hormone therapy.
Dealing with menopausal symptoms related to hormone therapy can be hard. Talk with your health care provider about ways to ease these and other side effects.
To get the most benefit from hormone therapy, you need to take the full course of treatment. People who complete the full course have better survival than those who do not [73-75].
If you have trouble remembering to take your hormone therapy, a pillbox or setting an alarm on your watch or phone (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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