News > Beyond the headlines: January 2023

Beyond the headlines: January 2023

LBBC’s views on breast cancer news


It can be hard to keep up with the ongoing stream of content – often pitched as more groundbreaking than is called for – and to integrate it with what we have heard from thought leaders, healthcare professionals, and the key experts: people impacted by breast cancer. Add social media, and it’s no surprise it’s tough to make sense of it all.

Enter our new monthly column, Beyond the headlines. We cut through the clutter to bring you the best of the content we’ve found. And we share why we believe the news is important and what it means for you. Links direct you to more information on the topic from LBBC and from trusted third-party partners.


DIEP flap reconstruction in jeopardy

A change to billing codes threatens health insurance coverage for DIEP flap, a reconstruction surgery that allows people to use their own skin and fat to rebuild the breast. The coding change, directed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), pools all breast reconstruction surgeries under a single code rather than by individual procedure – regardless of differences in complexity, cost, and needed expertise. DIEP flap typically costs $50,000 or more, putting it out of reach for all but the wealthiest people.

This is an issue of equity. People with breast cancer have the right to breast reconstruction under the Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act of 1998. It’s wrong to prevent those who can’t afford the out-of-pocket costs from accessing what may be the most appropriate surgery for their condition. LBBC is collaborating with partners to pressure CMS to re-add the individual billing codes, which we feel is the fastest way to rectify this wrong.


Make no mistake: Women who want [DIEP flap] surgery and have money will always have access to it. The only people that this coding change affects and hurts are women who need access through insurance.

Elisabeth Potter, MD, on CBS News


A win for lymphedema care

As part of its year-end omnibus bill, in December the U.S. Congress passed the Lymphedema Treatment Act. LBBC has supported this legislation and the relentless work of our partners at the Lymphedema Advocacy Group for the last 12 years. The law, which goes into effect in 2024, creates a new Medicare benefit category to cover the costs of compression garments, a key tool to preventing infection and managing lymphedema. The condition is a lifelong possible side effect that can result from damage caused by breast cancer surgery and cause swelling and build-up of lymph fluid in the skin of the arm, hand, breast, or torso. Until now, Medicare – and the many health insurers that follow Medicare’s lead – did not cover the costs of garments. Advocates will now focus on ensuring a smooth rollout of the law.

Learn more

Related LBBC content


Unequal access to mammography screening

The same day National Cancer Institute Director Monica Bertagnolli, MD, publicly shared her diagnosis of breast cancer after a routine mammogram, a study found more than one-quarter of women ages 45 to 84 in 10 states have limited access to mammography screening. That percentage remained consistent over the study period of 16 years. Women in these states traveled farther for mammograms, putting them at greater risk for higher staged cancers. (If you’re having trouble getting to a mammogram, ask your local doc about mobile mammography units and transportation help.)

We commend Dr. Bertagnolli for sharing her lived experiences, and LBBC will continue to advocate for equitable access to screening, and treatment, to lessen the burden, disparity, and suffering of all people with breast cancer.


Imagine if I had delayed my routine screening appointment, or not gone at all? The situation may have been worse. I am grateful that I had access to effective screening and caught this early.

Monica Bertagnolli, MD, in The Cancer Letter


(Our) people are talking

Young Advocate grad and LBBC Board Member Jamil Rivers blogged at Penn Medicine about how her diagnosis of de novo MBC motivated her to establish The Chrysalis Initiative to help Black women access equitable care.

Over on Twitter, Hear My Voice grad Abigail Johnston shared her blog that focused on the implications of the Cures Act, the 2016 federal legislation that requires healthcare providers to release health information “without delay.” At LBBC, we’re hearing more often from people who receive their diagnosis of breast cancer via electronic health record – before a conversation with a doctor. On her blog, Abigail grapples with the real-life implications of this legislation and offers strategies to people with cancer, care providers, and health administrators.


The bottom line for me in this discussion is that the ability of a patient to determine their own treatment and to control the flow of information has to be foundational and respected by everyone involved.

Abigail Johnson, in No Half Measures


Many thanks to this month’s column advisor, consulting writer Claire Nixon.

Let us know what you think of the column and what you’d like to see us cover next month by reaching out to


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