What Is Breast Cancer?
Aside from certain types of skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women—regardless of race or ethnicity. More than 268,600 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be detected in the U.S. in 2019, and more than 40,000 women will die from the disease1. About 70 percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no known risk factors2.
Breast cancer starts when cells in the breast begin to grow out of control. These cells usually form a tumor that may be seen on a mammogram or felt as a lump. The tumor is cancerous if the cells can grow into surrounding tissues or spread to distant areas of the body. Men can also get breast cancer, although it's rare.
Why Is Breast Cancer Screening Important?
Detecting breast cancer early increases the chances of successful treatment. Women with localized breast cancer that hasn't spread outside of the breast have a five-year survival rate of almost 100%3 , meaning they can live for at least five years after being diagnosed. Women should discuss with their doctor when it is appropriate to get a mammogram, and should have a breast exam performed by their doctor each year.
What Are the Current Breast Screening Guidelines?
We want to make sure that women have access to regular mammography screenings, and that they follow guidelines. Current guidelines recommend that women who are between ages 40 through 49 should speak with their doctor about when to start getting mammograms and how often. Women ages 50 to 74 and women who are at average risk for breast cancer should get a mammogram every two years.4
Breast cancer is often detected when a woman discovers a symptom, such as a lump, during an at-home breast exam. Although research hasn't shown a clear benefit of regular at-home breast exams, it's important that women are familiar with how their breasts normally look and feel so they can report any changes to their doctor.
What Resources Does Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Offer Members?
To increase awareness of, and participation in, regular breast cancer screenings, we may send reminders to members who we identify as being overdue for receiving mammograms. We also send educational information about our current breast cancer screening guidelines to members and doctors, and offer additional information both in print and online.
Our Care Management Program offers ongoing support for members with chronic conditions and complicated medical issues. Care managers will reach out to members who may have had a recent change in health, a condition they may need help managing, or a recent hospitalization. Participation in this program is completely optional, is offered at no additional cost to members, and won’t affect health plan benefits.
Want to Get Started?
Call us at 1-800-392-0098
Monday through Thursday, 8:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. E.T.,
Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. E.T. (TTY users: dial 711)
- Know what to ask your doctor about mammograms.
- Call the American Cancer Society toll-free at 1-800-ACS-2345 or visit the website: cancer.org.
- Visit the Blue Cross ahealthyme.com to learn more about breast cancer screenings, breast cancer treatment, and more.
1American Cancer Society, “How Common Is Breast Cancer?,” February 7, 2019
2National Breast Cancer Foundation, “About Breast Cancer,” 2016
3American Cancer Society, “Survival Rates for Breast Cancer,” February 7, 2019
4Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “What Is Breast Cancer Screening?,” September 11, 2018