AUSTIN, Texas –During National Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October, the American Cancer Society continues to recommend mammograms for all women age 40 and older every year to help detect breast cancer early. This year alone, an estimated 182,460 women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer, and an estimated 40,930 will die from the disease. Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed non-skin cancer in women, and the second leading cause of cancer death (after lung cancer).
Although breast cancer death rates among women have been decreasing steadily since 1990 due to earlier detection and better treatments, mammography rates are now declining according to a recent study. This raises cause for concern, as studies continue to show that one of the most important ways to make strides in the fight against breast cancer is to ensure that women continue getting their yearly mammogram, which can detect cancer at its earliest, most treatable stages.
Unfortunately, millions of women are missing potential lifesaving breast cancer screening due to lack of insurance. A recent study in CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the Society, shows that uninsured and Medicaid insured women were about 2.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with advanced breast cancer than women with private insurance. This study also found that African American and Hispanic women were more likely than white women to be diagnosed with advanced breast cancer, regardless of insurance status.
In addition to mammograms, the Society also recommends the use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) screening for some women at increased risk for breast cancer. For most women who have a 20 to 25 percent or greater lifetime risk of the disease, according to risk assessment tools based mainly on family history, screening with MRI and mammography should begin at age 30 years and continue for as long as a woman is in good health. The Society’s guidelines are a critical step in helping to define who should be screened using MRI in addition to mammography, as women at very high risk of breast cancer can be diagnosed much earlier when combining the two technologies rather than mammography alone.
The American Cancer Society offers a variety of free programs and services to help women with breast cancer. The Society provides services such as transportation to treatment and free lodging near cancer treatment centers, and offers programs that connect recently diagnosed women with women who have survived breast cancer to talk about the experience. The Society also offers a program that helps female cancer patients learn beauty techniques to address appearance and self-image during chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Up-to-date cancer information and referrals to local programs and other community resources can be obtained by calling the Society at 1-800-227-2345, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, or logging on to www.cancer.org.
A free mammogram reminder is available for friends and family to encourage the women in their lives to get their yearly mammograms, and can be found at www.cancer.org/mammogramreminder.
The American Cancer Society is dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem by saving lives, diminishing suffering and preventing cancer through research, education, advocacy and service. Founded in 1913 and with national headquarters in Atlanta, the Society has 13 regional Divisions and local offices in 3,400 communities, involving millions of volunteers across the United States. For more information anytime, call toll free 1-800-ACS-2345 or visit www.cancer.org.