Tomorrow begins Breast Cancer Awareness month. Baristanet visits local breast cancer specialist, Montclair Breast Center’s Dr. Nancy Elliot, whose practice is unlike any other in the country. Read a Q&A on the state of the disease with Dr. Elliot here.
The Montclair Breast Center (MBC) — fondly referred to by Elliot as “The Little Breast Hospital” — is the only facility in the United States to house imaging, diagnostics, treatment and reconstructive surgery in the same building. They’re a one-stop-shop for all things breast-health related, and their integrative, personalized approach to fighting the rampant disease is both healing and, sort of spiritual.
I recently visited the little hospital (full disclosure: Montclair Breast Center is a Baristanet advertiser) to get an update on “The State of the Disease,” for October’s 25th annual Breast Cancer Awareness month. I went in with questions, and came out, not only with answers, but with the feeling that I had just had an hour-long massage. For me, talking with the various doctors and staff members at MBC, made this usually terrifying topic a little less frightening. I actually felt like I had breathed a sigh of relief to know that there is hope for prevention, treatment, and perhaps even a cure.
“It’s all about being educated,” Elliott said. “There’s so much we can do to take control of the risk. Knowledge is power.”
The facility feels more like a rejuvenating spa than a medical office. Beautiful artwork (such as the piece above, by artist/patient Patricia Davis-Ganek), rooms decorated in various beach themes and the staff’s warmth give the facility a zen-like and deeply feminine environment. But — as with everything — the beauty of the place is more than skin deep.
This team of women doctors — several of whom are breast cancer survivors themselves — are serious about what they do. They’ve got state of the art equipment, are leaders in their scientific field, and have a passion for beating the odds of the disease they fight against every day. There is one catch, though. They don’t take insurance.
Elliot brought the subject up right away. “We’ve been criticized for not accepting insurance, but the fact of the matter is that the Montclair Breast Center wouldn’t exist if we did,” she said. “Doctors who take insurance can’t spend 45 minutes explaining a breast biopsy to a patient, or take the time to go to all the conferences.”
Elliot pointed out that mammogram screening is notoriously under-reimbursed by insurance companies. Hospitals and radiology practices lose money on them, but make up for it with other services. “When all you do is breast care, you can’t take the loss.”
Patients are required to pay up front for their mammograms, and can then file for reimbursement through their insurance companies if they have out of network coverage. If they are diagnosed with breast cancer, The Montclair Breast Center will work with the patient on the expenses. “Our patients aren’t necessarily wealthy,” said Elliot. “But they have good insurance. We have a lot of teachers.”
On the center’s web site, there are many testimonials that speak to why women are willing to deal with the hassle and expense of navigating the insurance claims and fronting the money.
“It’s the stories that our patients tell us that keep us all going, and remind us of why we’re here,” Elliot explained.