Connecting with survivors: A HealthSelect participant shares her breast cancer story

October 04, 2023
person laying down on exam table receiving ultrasound on breast tissue underarm in a clinic

Individual in the photo is not Maria, the HealthSelectSM participant from this story.

About one in eight American women will get breast cancer at some point in their lives. Each year, about 280,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer are diagnosed in the U.S. Breast cancer sometimes occurs in men, though it is rare. For American women, though, breast cancer is the second leading cause of death from cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute.

The good news is the five-year survival rate for women diagnosed with breast cancer is more than 90%.

Meet Maria, a HealthSelectSM participant whose breast cancer diagnosis connected her with an inspirational group of women who supported her along the road to recovery.

Maria’s breast cancer story

Maria’s life forever changed with one phone call. When her primary care provider’s (PCP’s) office left a message asking her to come in to the office that day, she remembers thinking, “Why would I need to come in today unless the doctor has something bad to tell me?”

Maria told her supervisor she needed to leave work, and she headed to the doctor’s office right away. The receptionist took her right into the office, where her doctor’s words changed everything: “You have breast cancer.”

Like many others, Maria didn’t know what came after a cancer diagnosis. She tried to process the shock, but her mind raced with how this would affect her kids and husband. Even though everyone around her said not to worry about the cost of treatment, it did worry her. She needed to find out how much of a financial strain this would put on her family.

Maria talked to her PCP about next steps, and then she called the number on the back of her HealthSelect medical ID card. A Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas (BCBSTX) Personal Health Assistant answered all of Maria’s questions and told her how her HealthSelect of Texas® benefits worked. The BCBSTX team also helped Maria schedule her next appointments with in-network providers. Then, they connected her with Pam, a BCBSTX care management clinician, who would give Maria personalized support.

In the weeks to come, Maria was in and out of medical facilities and specialist offices. She met with the in-network medical oncologist, surgical oncologist and radiation oncologist who would treat her. Pam continued to follow up with Maria to offer guidance, emotional support and resources.

One of the resources Pam shared led Maria to a local group of incredible women in their own battles with breast cancer. The group bonded over their determination to never give up and the belief that they would enjoy many years of life ahead.

This group of strong women, along with Pam, were there when Maria found her treatments to be scary, physically draining and emotionally overwhelming. They understood what she was going through and offered much-needed support. Thanks to this support group and her family, Maria never felt alone on her journey.

Today, Maria is proud to say she is a cancer survivor. She feels blessed to have experienced the support of so many strong, inspirational people along the way. She treasures the lasting friendships she made with the women who supported her during the scariest moments of her journey. She stands with them now, offering hope to other women facing the cancer journey.

Most of all, she’s happy she’s still here.

What you can do: get screened

Early detection is important. Breast cancer screening looks for signs of breast cancer before there are any symptoms. The goal of the screening is to find cancer at an early stage when it can be treated and may be cured. Talk to your PCP about breast cancer risk factors, your family medical history and the breast screening recommendations best for you.

  • If you are 40 to 49, talk with your PCP about the risks and benefits of mammography and when you should get screened.
  • If you are between the ages of 50 and 74, visit with your PCP about getting a mammogram at least every two years.

Screening mammograms are covered at no cost when performed by a provider in the HealthSelect network. Your provider may do additional tests if you have family members with a history of breast, ovarian, tubal or peritoneal cancer. These additional tests can show if your family history will put you at higher risk for breast cancer. (Note: You may have out-of-pocket costs for these additional tests.)

Support is available

As a HealthSelect medical plan participant, you have access to a dedicated team of care management clinicians, at no extra cost, who can provide you with support to manage a new or existing cancer diagnosis. Clinicians can help you understand and follow the treatment plan, answer questions and share additional health and wellness resources. To speak with a clinician, call BCBSTX toll-free at (800) 252-8039 (TTY: 711) between 8 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. CT, Monday – Friday, and ask to speak with a clinician.

If you have benefits or coverage questions, BCBSTX Personal Health Assistants are available by phone toll-free at (800) 252-8039 (TTY: 711), Monday – Friday, 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. CT. and Saturday, 7 a.m. – 3 p.m. CT. You can also log in to Blue Access for MembersSM and communicate confidentially with BCBSTX Personal Health Assistants via secure chat and secure messaging.

Breast cancer awareness webinar

The Employees Retirement System of Texas (ERS) and BCBSTX will host a breast cancer awareness webinar on Thursday, Oct. 26 at 10 a.m. Attend to learn about the most common types of breast cancer, risk factors, the importance of regular screenings and breast cancer myths. Register now to attend the presentation.