Most people are aware of the efforts to combat breast cancer and support these efforts by sporting the pink ribbon. But many women don't take the important step from awareness to personal screening tests that can detect the disease in its early stages when it's easier to treat successfully. Breast cancer is second only to skin cancer as the most common type of cancer in American women. About 230,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year in the US and 40,000 women will die from it.
Here are the general guidelines for screening—your doctor should customize the schedule for your unique health needs:
- Women ages 40 to 49: Talk with your doctor about when to start getting mammograms and how often you need them.
- Women ages 50 to 74: Get mammograms every 2 years. Talk with your doctor to decide if you need them more often.
Some people aren't sure of how the Affordable Care Act will help with breast cancer screenings. The ACA sees to it that preventive health services for women are included in the comprehensive prevention-focused health reform package. Most health plans must cover a comprehensive set of preventive health services like breast cancer screenings to meet women’s unique health care needs.
All Marketplace health plans and many other plans must cover these breast cancer specific preventive services for women without charging a co-pay or co-insurance. This is true even if you haven’t met your yearly deductible though it applies only when you get them from an in-network provider.
- Breast Cancer Genetic Test Counseling (BRCA) for women at higher risk for breast cancer
- Breast Cancer Mammography screenings every 1 to 2 years for women over 40
- Breast Cancer Chemoprevention counseling for women at higher risk
One hurdle that not even the ACA can help with is overcoming fear. Some women put off breast cancer screenings because they're afraid of being diagnosed with breast cancer, but it's important not to let such fears get in the way of your health. Breast cancer screenings save lives. More than 9 out of 10 women who detect breast cancer early live at least five years, and many live for much longer. That can't be said without testing and without detecting cancer early. Talk to your primary care doctor or ob-gyn today if you're due for a screening.