Cancer Patient Fights for Treatment Insurance Company Calls 'Experimental' - NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

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Cancer Patient Fights for Treatment Insurance Company Calls 'Experimental'

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    Battling cancer is one of the hardest things anyone can experience. Battling an insurance company to bend the rules to potentially help you heal is even harder. (Published Wednesday, March 29, 2017)

    Battling cancer is one of the hardest things anyone can experience. Battling an insurance company to bend the rules to potentially help you heal is even harder.

    A Dallas couple is in the middle of both fights.

    In sickness and in health, Danny Roberson will never forget that vow.

    "I married her on top of a mountain in Colorado 16 years ago, as close to God as I could get her," he said.

    Proton Therapy Helps Treat Cancer in North Texas

    [DFW] Proton Therapy Helps Treat Cancer in North Texas

    Proton therapy targets radiation for cancer patients, minimizing damage to healthy tissues.  It is giving a Wichita Falls doctor his best chance at continuing to do what he loves.
     

    (Published Wednesday, March 29, 2017)

    Roberson is doing his duty for his sweetheart, Betty Roberson.

    When she was diagnosed with cervical cancer two years, Betty Roberson began radiation and chemo to fight back.

    "We started out with a basically a cantaloupe-sized tumor and shrunk down to a golf ball," Danny Roberson said.

    Things were looking good, but then Betty Roberson started having unusually extreme pain.

    "They then discovered she had tumor in the bone, in her hip bone, that had just started," Danny Roberson said.

    Doctors had already given Betty Roberson large amounts of chemo and radiation.

    She says doctors weren't willing to dish out anymore. She says she's maxed out.

    "I did 30 rounds of radiation and then I did a bunch of rounds of chemo," said Betty Roberson.

    With traditional radiation therapy, doctors aim the radiation at a particular part of your body, but then it travels through your body to exit.

    With proton therapy doctors can aim at one spot and break up the tumor, while eliminating the exit problem.

    It's what Betty Roberson's doctor recommended for her.

    "They all deemed it investigational and experimental," Danny Roberson said.

    Proton therapy has been around since the 1950s, but it isn't a clear-cut choice for many cancers.

    It's widely used in cases where it's important to pinpoint radiation to a specific spot without sending it anywhere else.

    Betty Roberson's doctor and insurance company haven't agreed that her case is one that requires the pinpointed radiation.

    A spokeswoman for United Healthcare told NBC 5 Responds, "certain services are not covered, [and] individuals and their physicians have the right to have their cases reviewed by independent third-party medical professionals."

    Betty Roberson did just that, but the third-party doctor also called the treatment experimental.

    Medical professionals tell us many insurance companies will pay for proton therapy.

    Medicare even covers it, case-by-case.

    Betty Roberson qualifies for Medicare in a few months, but it's time she may not have.

    "I want to see my grand-babies grow up," she said. "You know, I deserve that."

    It's painful for both of them, feeling like help is there but barely out of reach.

    "If these insurance companies would just step up to the plate and do some of these things they deem investigational, experimental, it could be possible that they stumble onto some cures that they didn't know were out there," said Roberson.

    It costs $53,000 to zap Betty Roberson's tumor with protons.

    The family has started a GoFundMe account, and doctors are cranking up pain medication to try to help Betty Roberson get through each day.

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