The American Cancer Society is urging women to talk to their doctors about the time and breast cancer screening that is best for them.
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, elective medical procedures, including cancer screenings, were largely put on hold to prioritize urgent needs and reduce the risk of the spread of COVID-19 in healthcare settings. One consequence of this has been a substantial decline in cancer screening. According to ACS Senior Development Manager Denis Cournoyer, “Health care facilities are providing cancer screening during the pandemic with many safety precautions in place so now, more than ever, it’s time to get back on track with screenings.”
For the American Cancer Society, the end of breast cancer begins with research. ACS’s research program has played a role in many of the prevention, screening, and treatment advances that help save lives from breast cancer today.
“Breast cancer mortality has declined in recent decades—31% between 1991 and 2018—due in part to progress in screening technologies and an increase in screening services like mammograms. That translates to approximately 3.2 million cancer deaths averted during that timeframe,” reports Cournoyer.
In Arizona, it is estimated that 5,850 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2021; about 900 will die of the disease. Breast cancer is sometimes found after symptoms appear, but many women with breast cancer have no symptoms. This is why regular breast cancer screening is so important.
Finding breast cancer early and getting state-of-the-art cancer treatment are the most important strategies to prevent deaths from breast cancer. Breast cancer that’s found early, when it’s small and has not spread, is easier to treat successfully. Getting regular screening tests is the most reliable way to find breast cancer early. The American Cancer Society has screening guidelines for women at average risk of breast cancer, and for those at high risk for breast cancer.
The ACS guidelines are for women at average risk for breast cancer. For screening purposes, a woman is considered to be at average risk if she doesn’t have a personal history of breast cancer, a strong family history of breast cancer, or a genetic mutation known to increase risk of breast cancer (such as in a BRCA gene) and has not had chest radiation therapy before the age of 30. (See below for guidelines for women at high risk.)
- Women between 40 and 44 have the option to start screening with a mammogram every year.
- Women 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year.
- Women 55 and older can switch to a mammogram every other year, or they can choose to continue yearly mammograms. Screening should continue as long as a woman is in good health and is expected to live at least 10 more years.
- All women should understand what to expect when getting a mammogram for breast cancer screening—what the test can and cannot do.
The American Cancer Society is on a mission to free the world from cancer. We invest in lifesaving research, provide 24/7 information and support, and work to ensure that individuals in every community have access to cancer prevention, detection, and treatment. For more information, visit cancer.org.
Carol Roder is with the American Cancer Society’s South Region.