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Insurance OK’d for artificial breasts

Kyodo

A health ministry panel has approved a system that will enable cancer patients to receive public insurance coverage for artificial breasts from next month.

The move will reduce the financial burden on patients undergoing radical mastectomies since the government would shoulder 70 percent of the total expenses, members of the Central Social Insurance Medical Council said Wednesday.

Reconstructive surgery involving artificial breasts costs around ¥1 million per breast, but this amount could be further reduced under a separate state system that reimburses a percentage of extremely high medical costs.

Cancer patients currently have to pay the full cost of reconstruction surgery involving artificial breasts. Around 60,000 women nationwide are diagnosed with breast cancer each year.

The system will only be applicable for those who undergo reconstructive surgery and excludes procedures for cosmetic purposes, such as the preventive double mastectomy Hollywood star Angelina Jolie recently underwent, the panel members said.

The coverage will be provided for artificial breasts and tissue expander for breast implant reconstruction. Allergan Japan K.K., which offers these products, estimates they will be used by more than 700 patients annually once the new system takes effect.

One method of rebuilding breasts is to use muscle from the abdomen or other parts of the body. However, this method is not suitable for every patient and also causes scarring. The disadvantages of artificial breasts, in addition to the discomfort felt by some women, have included their high cost due to the lack of national insurance coverage.