Getting breast cancer at any age can cause extreme worry, stress, and financial strain, but what are some of the implications of a diagnosis that comes after your golden years? Let’s talk about it.
Breast Cancer Treatment Improvements
Breast cancer treatment has improved significantly in the last 40 years. With the increase in life-saving advances comes hope. Not only is the treatment more effective, but there is preventative medication to help lessen the side effects.
For most older women, breast cancer, although not always, can be slow-growing. Once diagnosed, speak with your doctor about your life expectancy, the treatments that would make the most sense for you, and what you’ll need to manage.
Fortunately, many new studies have shown that older women can skip radiation if they choose. Instead, a lumpectomy or mastectomy has better odds for survival and recovery. Since radiation can cause extreme fatigue, pain, and other symptoms, skipping it is an option.
Now, this is not to say that there is a one-size-fits-all when it comes to beating cancer. And that’s why it’s essential to look at your overall health.
Look At Overall Health
Are you fit and healthy? Have you had other diseases or disorders that have weakened your immune system or physical capabilities? Can you manage radiation, chemotherapy, or even extensive surgeries? These questions need to be discussed with your physician to see what your best course of action is.
If you get diagnosed at 65, but are able to get treatment and can live for an extra 30 years, then treatment can be essential. But if you’re 85 and the cancer is more aggressive, or if your health is already frail, going through multiple treatments may not be your best course of action. Of course, this choice is always yours, and luckily, your doctor will be able to talk about options and how you should proceed.
Continue To Get Tested
Testing for breast cancer shouldn’t stop after 60. In fact, it’s important to get tested regularly until the risks factors drop after 85. Early and continued screening and testing may keep you from a recurrence. The earlier the diagnosis, the better your chances of survival and easier recovery.
If you’ve already been diagnosed and are currently in recovery, you should continue with follow-up testing. Finding out earlier is essential to increase the odds that cancer stays away. Luckily, with health insurance in retirement, these tests will be free or low-cost, meaning you can still have peace of mind financially while still taking care of your health.
Look Into Your Health Insurance
One of the biggest perks of retirement for Americans is being able to take advantage of Medicare after 65.
If your doctor accepts Medicare, they will pay 80 percent of your care provider bills for approved cancer treatments. You’ll be responsible for 20 percent of the billed amount until you hit your annual deductible (which is $1,556 as of 2022). And, if you have Medicare Part D, prescription drugs that are a part of your cancer treatment are covered too.
However, it’s essential to get your diagnosis, treatment plan, and consults approved before moving forward. And, be sure to get the approval in writing. That way, you can be sure that you’re not being charged out of pocket on treatments, procedures, prescriptions, and visits that should be covered. Let’s look at that.
Medicare Part A
Medicare Part A will cover your hospital care. This includes:
- Your cancer treatment
- Diagnostic testing at the hospital
- Inpatient procedures (like lumpectomies)
- Breast prostheses if you get a mastectomy
Medicare Part B
Medicare Part B will cover outpatient care that’s medically necessary. This includes:
- Any visit with your general practitioner
- Visits with your oncologist or other cancer specialists
- Diagnostic testing
- Outpatient surgeries
- Chemotherapy treatments
- Medical equipment that is prescribed to you
- Preventative care screenings after treatment and recovery
Medicare Part D
Medicare Part D will cover any prescription drugs. This includes:
- Oral chemotherapy drugs
- Antinausea medications
- Medications for reducing pain
- Cancer treatments medications that your doctor prescribes
Remember that Medicare Part D isn’t automatically a part of your Medicare agreement. Some plans have it, and some don’t. So it’s important to make sure your coverage will pay for the drugs and prescriptions you need.
Live Your Life Unapologetically
Of course, no matter when you’re diagnosed, you can still live your life on your terms. Having a team of dedicated doctors and specialists to help you on your journey, no matter what you choose, is essential when you’re diagnosed with breast cancer.
There is no right or wrong answer in how to handle your diagnosis and treatment plan. You get to make the decisions, no matter what those look like. If you need support, guidance, or a listening ear while reviewing your decisions, you can take advantage of many support groups and educational resources.
Getting Breast Cancer In Your Golden Years
If you’re an older woman facing a breast cancer diagnosis and potential treatment, it’s possible to figure out how to tackle the disease. Of course, with your community of doctors, as well as external support from loved ones, it’s possible to find the best plan for you and your future.
Your decisions are yours alone, and you can choose whatever you want and need to do to live your best life. Getting breast cancer later in life is no longer a definitive death sentence. In fact, the statistics show that you can live and thrive. So don’t despair; use this to prepare.