Fran Drescher Pens Op-Ed on Importance of Health Insurance for Cancer Prevention

"The cost of health care, and of getting preventative care and enabling early detection, is why I believe that we all have to support Obamacare and people need to sign up for it," the actress wrote in an op-ed for NBC News.

Fran Drescher addressed the importance of having affordable health insurance in an op-ed for NBC News published on Sunday (June 24).

"The cost of health care, and of getting preventative care and enabling early detection, is why I believe that we all have to support Obamacare and people need to sign up for it," she wrote. "Ultimately, the more a nation gets behind a socialized medicine program, the more the nation pivots into a preventative consciousness. Our country is not there right now, and it shows."

She continued the op-ed by explaining some of the problems with health care in the United States. "The World Health Organization ranked us 37th in the world in health care outcomes, despite spending more money on health care (as a percentage of GDP) than any other country in the world. The Commonwealth Fund, which looks at the 11 richest countries in the world, ranks us dead last on health care outcomes, even though we spend far more on it (as a percentage of GDP) than every single other nation," she said. "We are the United States, and it is absolutely pathetic that we spend all this money and have worse outcomes than any other wealthy country in the world."

Drescher's essay follows the Trump administration's recent move against the Affordable Care Act that could jeopardize legal protections for millions of people with employer coverage that have pre-existing medical conditions, according to law and insurance experts.

The actress began the piece by stating that she is not the common demographic impacted by uterine cancer. "Most doctors subscribe to the philosophy that, if you hear galloping hooves, don't look for zebra because it's probably a horse. But what this means is that medically if you happen to be a 'zebra' — as I was — you're at high risk of slipping through the cracks," she wrote. "Typically three out of four women who have uterine cancer are post-menopausal or obese. I was neither, so I slipped through the cracks."

Receiving a correct diagnosis was a difficult process for Drescher. "I was misdiagnosed for a perimenopausal condition that I didn't have, and thus I wasn't given an in-office endometrial biopsy that would have discovered the cancer when I first experienced symptoms," she said. "Instead, I was put on four different hormone replacement therapies, the last one of which nearly killed me because it had estrogen in it, which was like taking poison for my particular condition." She wrote, "It took me two years and eight doctors to get a proper diagnosis."

Drescher wrote that the experience of being misdiagnosed in not rare. "Women's cancers tend to mimic far more benign illnesses at their earliest, more curable 'whisper stage,'" she said. The actress shared the example that ovarian cancer is often mistaken for irritable bowel syndrome during its most curable stage. "As a consequence of that, 85 percent of women with ovarian cancer will be diagnosed in the later stages. Of the 59 percent of women who won't be diagnosed until the cancer has metastasized, over 70 percent of them will die within five years. By comparison, the 15 percent of women who are diagnosed in the earliest stages of ovarian cancer have a five-year survival rate of 93 percent."

She said that the number of misdiagnoses is why her Cancer Schmancer initiative encourages people to recognize early warning signs of cancer and to see a doctor immediately. Drescher serves as the president of the organization that encourages people to be aware of early detection, prevention protocols and policy changes when it comes to cancer.

"We try and reprogram people to say, 'This could be nothing, but it could also be something, so instead of ignoring it because I am too busy dealing with daily life, my family and work, I'm going to check it out so that, if it is something concerning, I can catch it in the whisper state when it is most curable,'" she wrote. She said that while it's easy to ignore cancer in the early stages, it's important to acknowledge because that is when it has the best chance of being cured.

The actress also encouraged people to do their research. "Go online: There's a wealth of information available now from reputable medical organizations and you can look up a myriad of symptoms and see if you need to get a second opinion or a third," she wrote. "You may need to advocate for yourself, too, because the test that you need may not even be at the menu at the doctor's office, or it might not be something that your insurance company covers."

"What I tell people is: Don't squander money on frivolous things, and then become penny wise when it comes to your health. Switch that logic around: Paying for health care should come first. Don't agonize about spending money on your health insurance, or draining your Christmas savings account to pay for a test your insurance doesn't want to cover," she said. "Early detection makes a marked difference in how you can survive cancer and get on with living a healthy, full and long life. The best gift you can give your friends and family is to keep being here for Christmas."

"Groups like Cancer Schmancer can help transform patients into medical consumers and help them become better partners with their physicians. Knowledge is power!" she wrote. "The more we learn more about our health and how our lifestyle impacts it, hopefully everyone will get sick less and be diagnosed at the earliest stages. But, really, the problem is much larger than just early detection. How we live equals how we feel. The Cancer Schmacer 'Detox Your Home' program helps Americans live more toxin-free, carcinogen-free lives and, when practiced, can reduce the risk of disease."

She concluded, "Let's not get cancer in the first place. How's that for a cure?"