During this year alone, approximately 226,870 will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 39,510 women will die from the disease, according to the American Cancer Society. The organization estimates that the chance of a woman having invasive breast cancer at some point during her life is about 1 in 8; the lifetime risk for men is about 1 in 1,000.
The American Cancer Society believes that breast cancer death rates have been going down due to being able to detect the disease earlier and having better treatment available. To improve chances of survival, it’s important to detect breast cancer early. The goal of screening exams is to find cancers before they start to cause symptoms. The American Cancer Society says that most doctors feel that early detection tests for breast cancer save thousands of lives each year, and that many more lives could be saved if even more women and their healthcare providers take advantage of these tests. Screening for breast cancer improves the chances that breast cancer can be diagnosed at an early stage and treated successfully. The size of the cancer and how far it has spread are two of the most important factors in predicting the prognosis of a woman with this disease.
Here are some helpful tips to help you get screened, which can help you and your healthcare providers detect breast cancer in its early stages.
Get screened. Yearly mammograms are recommended for all women starting at age 40 and continuing for as long as a woman is in good health, according to the American Cancer Society. Clinical breast exams are also recommended every three years for women in their 20s and 30s and every year for women 40 and over.
Prevention starts at home. Women should know how their breasts normally look and feel and promptly report any breast changes to their health care provider. A breast self-exam is an option for women starting in their 20s. Check out this guide to learn how to do your own breast self-examination. Go to www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/testing/types/self_exam/bse_steps
Locate a mammography provider. There are many different options in choosing where to get a mammogram. Today, you can get mammograms in mobile units, freestanding centers and traditional hospital settings. Try to choose an accredited center based on the reputation of the radiologists and the quality of the facility’s equipment. You can contact the National Cancer Institute (1-800-4-CANCER) or the American College of Radiology (1-800-227-5463) to find a certified mammography provider. If you are a Health Advocate member and are still unsure of where to go, you can always call your Personal Health Advocate to find a location close to you where you can get a mammogram.
Affordable screening. If you’re worried about cost, talk to your doctor, a local hospital social worker, or staff members at a mammogram center. Ask about free programs in your area. You can also call the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345 or the National Cancer Institute at 1-800-422-6237 to be directed to lower-cost mammogram centers in your area. Another option is the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (1-888-842-6355), which provides low-cost or free cancer screenings for women without health insurance.
Getting regular screening tests is important because it can help locate breast cancer earlier, when it’s at its most treatable. It can also allow your medical team to start treating you faster so that you can begin your recovery sooner. If you think you are due for a mammogram, speak with your doctor. You can also call your Personal Health Advocate for assistance; they can help you locate a local, in-network doctor or a mammography provider.