October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the perfect time to share information about the disease and support causes that raise funds for research. Breast cancer is the second most common type of cancer in women, with approximately 231,340 new cases diagnosed in the U.S each year. I’ve had several friends and family members face breast cancer and in talking with and supporting them, these are tips to help you get organized when facing breast cancer. When facing any disease, being organized will make the complex and difficult process a bit easier and anything that can make it easier is invaluable.
Recently I faced an unexpected surgery (you can read about my gut-wrenching story) and was struck by how unprepared I was. You can never really be prepared for a medical emergency or life-threatening diagnosis, but thinking about what you should do now will help you when you’re in that phase of stunned confusion and most need structure and a plan to follow.
List of all Allergies, Medical Conditions and Current Medications – Now before you need it is a good time to write down all your allergies, medical conditions and all current medications you are taking. Keep this list in a safe place that is readily accessible. Make sure your family members know where it is in case you’re unable to tell them at the time it’s needed. When you’re emotional and dealing with a medical situation, it’s unlikely that you or your family member will remember all the details of allergies, medications and medical conditions, yet this is critical information that your doctor needs. Gathering the information in one location now when you’re able to think clearly and take the time you need will be invaluable if you ever face an emergency medical situation.
Have a Journal for Medical Notes – Have notebook that you can take to every medical appointment you have. Use this journal for medical treatment notes to write down dates, names, medical terms, medications and anything you need to remember. Also, use the journal at home to write down questions you want to ask the doctor at your next appointment. Going through the medical treatment process is overwhelming and confusing. Having one journal where you can keep all your important notes and questions makes it easier to keep track of this vital information.
Have a Folder for Paperwork – Have an easily identifiable folder to hold all loose paperwork associated with your medical treatment. Keeping all pertinent paperwork together in once place makes it easier to find the information you need when you need it. You can read more on how to organize medical files with tips from my friend, Holly who is a breast cancer survivor and blogs at The Coconut Head’s Survival Guide.
Gather all Necessary Insurance Information – Make sure you have insurance information like your identification number, your policy number, the insurance contact phone number and fax number, details on your coverage, limits and requirements. Gathering your insurance information now provides you with the opportunity to review your insurance policy. For most U.S. companies, fall is the open-enrollment season, which means now is the time you can review your employer-sponsored benefits and choose the health insurance policy that best meets your financial and health care needs. As you review your insurance coverage, it’s the perfect time to consider whether you should have a cancer insurance policy, which can allow you to focus on recovery not finances.
When caught early, the survival rate for breast cancer is as high as 99%, but the breast cancer treatment regimen can be very expensive. A cancer insurance policy, like Aflac, can be used not only for treatment expenses not covered by major medical insurance, but also for extra child care that my be needed, transportation to and from the doctor or treatments and even everyday living expenses, such as mortgage payments or groceries. Aflac’s cash benefits can help policyholders pay the out-of-pocket costs associated with costly cancer treatment. Aflac recently introduced the One Day PaySM initiative, which allows Aflac to process, approve and pay eligible claims in just a day, so that you can have the cash you need faster than ever before.
Take a Family Member or Friend to All Appointments – You’ll be discussing medical information that most likely will be entirely new to you. You’ll also be in an emotional state. It will be difficult to process, absorb and remember all the information the doctor gives to you. It may also be difficult to process the information and ask the questions that you want. Later during treatment, you may not be feeling well, so it will be even more difficult to process and remember everything you’re told. Taking a trusted family member or friend to every appointment gives you two sets of ears listening, two brains processing and remembering. Having that second person’s perspective is invaluable.
Early Detection is Key – Millions of women in the United States are surviving breast cancer thanks in part to early detection . The goal of breast cancer screening exams is to find cancers before they start to cause symptoms. Breast cancers found during screening exams are more likely to be smaller and still confined to the breast. Please check the American Cancer Society’s most recent recommendations for breast screening guidelines and follow them.
Support Breast Cancer Awareness Month – Do your part in supporting charities, organizations and companies that support Breast Cancer Awareness and fund raising. For Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Aflac will be partnering with the American Association for Cancer Research (AARC) for the second annual “This Duck Wears Pink” campaign. Aflac is selling campaign-related merchandise, including the plush duck, hats and a breast cancer ribbon pin, with all the net proceeds going to the AACR for the specific purpose of fund research aimed at finding a cure for breast cancer. You can donate to the cause and shop for merchandise here.
Do you have any tips to get organized when facing breast cancer? More importantly, have you recently had a breast cancer screening exam? Please take the time time this month to schedule your next breast cancer screening exam and review your insurance policies to make sure they best meet your needs.
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.