October is widely recognized as Breast Cancer Awareness Month around the world. It is the time of year when different organizations launch pink-themed campaigns and events to raise funds and awareness for this disease, such as Wear It Pink and Pink Walk. Now, you may be thinking, why has breast cancer drawn so much more attention than other forms of cancer? The answer is simple. It is because breast cancer is largely curable with early detection, but, ironically, it is still the number one killer of women in many countries, including Thailand, with around 14 deaths a day.
In this article sponsored by our partner Pacific Prime Thailand, we will take a closer look at breast cancer treatment and insurance options in the Land of Smiles.
Early diagnosis is still the key
Before we dig deeper into the different forms of breast cancer treatment, we’d first like to reiterate the importance of early diagnosis. Despite decades of awareness raising, many women from local communities still fear that mammographies give out too much radiation, and many are also too embarrassed to have regular breast screenings. This is particularly worrying as the number of breast cancer patients in Thailand has been on the rise steadily over the past 20 years, according to a report from the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
A plethora of research and studies have indicated that early diagnosis is pivotal, as early stage breast cancer has a higher cure rate and a shorter recovery time than later stage breast cancer.
That’s why women are advised to conduct mammography screenings or self-examinations of their breasts regularly to check for abnormal lumps. Additionally, lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise, weight, stress, and environmental toxins also play crucial roles in maintaining hormone balance and mitigating the risk of developing breast cancer.
What are your treatment options?
Your treatment options largely depend on your particular stage of breast cancer, which ranges from 0 to IV (0 to 4). While stage 0 describes non-invasive cancer, stage IV means that the tumor has spread beyond the breast to other organs of the body.
Breast conserving surgery
This form of surgery only removes the tumor and a small amount of normal tissue surrounding the tumor.
Axillary (underarm) lymph node removal
This surgery locates the position of the sentinel lymph nodes (the first lymph nodes cancer cells are most likely to spread to) to check for cancer, so that the lymph node most susceptible to breast cancer will be removed.
The above options are only suitable for patients with tumors in the early stages, and are thus relatively small in size. The following additional therapies may be advised in combination with surgeries to maximize treatment success.
Also known as “chemo”, this treatment uses chemotherapy medicine to weaken and destroy cancer cells in the body. This therapy is usually adopted before surgery to shrink tumor size, especially when cancer has reached stage 3 or beyond.
This therapy is highly targeted to destroy cancer cells that may stick around after surgery, so its side effects are limited to the treated area only. It is mostly for patients with cancer that has spread to regional lymph nodes only.
Once physicians have found a hormone-receptor-positive breast tumor, they will consider hormonal therapy in order to either reduce or block estrogen, as it could stimulate cancer cell growth.
This is a surgery that removes all breast tissue and lymph nodes. Yet with the advent of technique, it has become more refined and less intrusive than it used to be. The muscles under the breast are no longer removed, and even if they do, patients can use silicone implants for breast reconstruction.
What are your insurance options for breast cancer?
It’s highly recommended that you secure sufficient protection against breast cancer for both yourself and your loved ones, so that you won’t get caught off guard if you’re diagnosed with the disease and have to pay hefty treatment costs out-of-pocket.
There are two common types of health insurance that will cover breast cancer, critical illness insurance and international private medical insurance (IPMI).
Critical illness insurance
This form of insurance provides a one-time lump sum payment once you are diagnosed with breast cancer. There is no restriction on how you use the compensation so you may use it for your treatment, or to support your daily expenses if you cannot work.
International private medical insurance
Most IPMI plans encompass breast cancer treatment benefits, including all common types of therapies and surgeries. They may include, or can be extended to include, mammograms and regular check-ups on a preventive basis.
Besides, on the contrary to common belief that restrictions on pre-existing conditions will prevent those who have already had breast cancer from obtaining new insurance coverage, there are some IPMI plans on the market that will cover the condition again. This coverage will come once a patient’s cancer has been in remission for a few years, though the specific amount of time may vary between insurers and plans.
Getting coverage for your health in Thailand
While breast cancer can largely be diagnosed and cured with regular check-ups and screenings, other forms of critical ailments may not be as preventable. Thus, it is crucial for you to secure the right health insurance to cover potential medical expenses in the future. One smart way of doing this is to engage the professional services of an insurance brokerage such as Pacific Prime Thailand.
With over 18 years of experience and nine offices across the globe, Pacific Prime Thailand has helped numerous expat and local professionals alike secure private medical insurance coverage that best suits their needs. Our team of experts will draw on their relationship with insurers to fight for the best terms and price for you!
Contact us today for a chat, an obligation-free quote, and a plan comparison!