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 260,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be detected in the U.S. in 2018, and more than 40,000 women will die from the disease. About 70 percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no known risk factors.
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 is rare.
Why Is Breast Cancer Screening Important?
Early detection of breast cancer increases the chances of successful treatment. Women with early-stage breast cancer (Stage 0 or 1) have a five-year survival rate of almost 100%, meaning they 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 and 49 should talk with their doctor about when to start receiving mammograms and how often. Women who are ages 50 to 74 and who are at average risk for breast cancer should get a mammogram every two years. Although research has not shown a clear benefit of regular breast exams, breast cancer is often detected because of symptoms, such as a lump, that a woman discovers. It’s important that women are familiar with how their breasts normally look and feel so they can report any changes to their doctor.
How Is the Breast Cancer Prevention Program at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Helping Members?
We have many services to increase awareness and participation in regular breast cancer screening. Members identified as overdue for receiving mammograms may receive reminders from us. We also send educational information about our current breast cancer screening guidelines to members and doctors, and additional information is available both in print and online.
- Call the American Cancer Society toll-free at 1-800-ACS-2345 or visit the website: cancer.org.
- Breast Cancer Center at AHealthyMe.com