Let’s Talk about Breast Cancer: Early Detection is Key
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. This disease is the most common type of cancer among U.S. women and touches many of our families. Every October, we see friends and family wearing pink ribbons to honor loved ones. Pink Out parties and sports events encourage men, women, and kids to get their pink on and donate to breast cancer organizations. This big pink party in the U.S. is resulting in increased donations for research, treatments, and helping families. Awareness about breast cancer drives donations, which results in increased research. The good news is the earlier we detect breast cancer, the more treatable it is.
Breast Cancer Facts
- Breast cancer is a disease where malignant cells grow in breast tissues.
- 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime.
- In 2019, an estimated 268,600 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women in the U.S. as well as 62,930 new cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer.
- 62% of breast cancer cases are diagnosed at a localized stage, for which the 5-year survival rate is 99%.
- On average, every 2 minutes, a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States.
- Female breast cancer represents 15.2% of all new cancer cases in the U.S.
- There are over 3.5 million breast cancer survivors in the United States.
We can all support breast cancer awareness by encouraging women in our lives to take advantage of screening tests. Early detection screening tests give women and their doctors a window into what is happening inside their bodies before outward signs and symptoms appear. Mammograms are X-rays that can detect the growth of breast cancer cells up to two years before you feel a lump. Clinical breast exams, self-breast exams, and MRIs are other options. With regular screenings, women can diagnose breast cancer early and get the necessary treatment. When breast cancer is detected early and is in the localized stage, the 5-year relative survival rate is 100%.
Of the main types of breast cancer screenings, mammograms are the most common. There is conflicting information over when women should start getting mammograms and how often they should continue to get screened. Generally, once women are over 40, they should get their first mammogram if they have an average risk of breast cancer. Women who have a higher risk should get a mammogram with an MRI every year once they turn 30.
Who is at higher risk?
- Women with a history of breast cancer in one breast
- Women whose mother, sister, or daughter have a history of breast cancer
- Women with certain genetic mutations
We don’t know the exact causes of breast cancer, and it is hard to pinpoint why certain women develop the disease. We do know that nearly 80% of breast cancers are in women over the age of 50. Other risk factors include starting menstruation before age 12, going through menopause after age 55, and never having children.
Low-Cost and Free Mammograms
Medicare, Medicaid, and most insurance companies cover the cost of mammograms.
The Affordable Care Act requires all new health insurance plans to cover screening mammograms every 1-2 years with no out-of-pocket costs for women 40 and over.
If you don’t have insurance or your insurance doesn’t cover mammograms, the resources below may help you find a low-cost or free mammogram:
- The National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program provide access to breast cancer screening (plus diagnostic testing if results are abnormal and referrals to treatment if breast cancer is diagnosed) to low-income, uninsured, and underinsured women ages 40-64.
- Planned Parenthood offers clinical breast exams and referrals for mammography (and any follow-up testing, such as breast ultrasound).
Clinical Breast Exams
Clinical breast exams are done in a health care provider’s office during a regular visit. Providers are trained to examine the area around the breast, underarm, and clavicle for any changes or abnormalities. Finding a lump or abnormality does not necessarily indicate breast cancer. Follow up tests can provide more information on what is causing the issue.
An MRI is indicated for women who have a high risk of breast cancer and for those who already have a diagnosis. According to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, MRIs have some disadvantages compared to mammograms. MRIs are more invasive, produce more false positives, and are not always covered by insurance.
Hope for Families
It takes time and effort to get screened, but detecting breast cancer early saves lives! New approaches to diagnosis and treatments are giving people hope for increased survival rates. Schedule your mammogram today and encourage the women in your life to get checked, too.
Support Our Initiative
You can join our efforts to raise money for Kelsey Reigle, a local mother diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer, by purchasing a ‘Think Pink’ bundle! The bundle includes a Level 1 RE-ASSURE Gummy (Watermelon) and a Level 1 RE-LIVE Tincture (Watermelon). For each bundle sold, we are donating proceeds to Kelsey!