Doctors worry that fearing financial implications many hide cancers [San Bernardino County Sun, Calif.]By Jim Steinberg,Staff Writer, San Bernardino County Sun, Calif.McClatchy-Tribune Information Services
July 08--COLTON -- Irma Fietriana discovered a lump on her breast several years ago and decided to ignore it.
It grew and grew. She went to great lengths to conceal it from her husband, Julias Ebueng, and other family members.
Then, early this year she became very pale and weak.
When she was taken to Arrowhead Regional Medical Center, doctors and the family learned the horrible truth.
Her breast malignancy was the size of a football and protruding from her skin.
This is one of the medical darksides of a poor economy. Patients are hiding major illnesses for fear that the treatment might just cost the family their home.
Cancer specialists at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center report they are seeing an increase in significant delays for patients seeking help for breast cancer -- a disease where science can usually prevail -- if detection comes early enough.
Indeed, survival rates beyond five years top 90 percent when such cancer is detected at its earliest, according to the American Cancer Society.
Dr. Farbi Hussain, a surgical oncologist, and others at ARMC want to get the word out that in California there are breast cancer help programs that can save people from financial ruin.
"We want to make sure that people realize they don't have to sit and wait," Hussain said.
Ebueng said it was unfortunate that his wife discovered the tumor after he lost a job he had for seven years that provided health insurance.
She was convinced that pursuing treatment under those circumstances would lead to the loss of the family's Rancho Cucamonga home, he said.
"At her age, 42, we were really surprised (by her death). It still hurts. I still cry about it," Ebueng said.
She died March 28.
Rialto resident Barbara Crawford never saw it coming.
Her daughter, Sherri Crawford, noticed a lump in her breast almost three years before her death.
Living in another state, she lost her job and her health insurance lapsed about the time she discovered the lump.
She picked up a few temporary jobs, but eventually returned to California to live with her mother.
When the cancerous breast began to grow, she would "stuff things in the other side of her bra to conceal the growth," her mother said she later learned.
"The day she was admitted to the emergency room, the tumor had erupted through the skin and she was loosing a lot of blood, Barbara Crawford said, feeling guilty that she had not seen the signs that something was seriously wrong.
Sherri Crawford died 16 days later, on March 31.
Barbara Crawford said that her daughter sought help, but was told nothing was available for her.
She said she was willing to do a newspaper interview duuring her grieving period on the hope that "at least one person will be helped."
The Breast and Cervical Cancer Treatement Program may provide full-scope treatment services for up to 18 months at no cost, if certain income and residency requirements are met.
There is also the possibility of free breast cancer screenings through the Cancer Detection Programs: Every Woman Counts. Visit www.cdph.ca.gov and search with the term Every Woman Counts.
Reach Jim via email, call him at 909-386-3855, or find him on Twitter @JSteinbergsRoad.
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