Breast Cancer: About the Breast Cancer and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Problem
October 11, 2015
Breast Cancer in the United States
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women, and the second leading cause of cancer deaths in U.S. women. An estimated 246,660 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016, and 40,450 women will die as a result. Many of these deaths could be avoided if breast cancer screening rates increased among women at risk.
Screening mammography is currently considered the most effective way of reducing breast cancer mortality and increasing the odds of survival. Mammograms x-ray breast tissue and highlight abnormalities. Mammography technology has greatly improved with enhanced imaging and less tissue exposure to radiation, but mammograms are not perfect. For instance, many women have dense breasts - more connective and breast tissue - which can make it more difficult to detect tumors. But, regular mammograms are still the best way to find breast cancer early and help to determine if additional testing is necessary.
Cervical Cancer in the United States
In 2016, 12,990 cases of cervical cancer will be diagnosed and 4,120 women will lose their lives. Like breast cancer, many of these deaths could be avoided if cervical cancer screening rates increased among women at risk.
Cervical cancer screening using the Pap test, can prevent cancer altogether by detecting precancerous lesions. Increased utilization of the Pap test has resulted in a steady decline in both incidence and mortality rates for cervical cancer over the past several decades.
Improving Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Rates
The Affordable Care Act is helping to improve insurance coverage, raise awareness, and reduce the costs of breast and cervical cancer screenings for women, by requiring private insurers, Medicare, and Medicaid expansion programs to cover routine preventive services at no cost to the patient. However, millions of underinsured and uninsured women across the country still do not have access to these lifesaving screenings. Low-income women, particularly minorities, often face later stage cancer diagnoses; have less access to diagnostic and treatment services; and lower survival rates.
National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP) – Closing the Gaps
Congress established the NBCCEDP in 1990 to reduce breast and cervical cancer deaths among medically underserved women, including low-income, uninsured, and underinsured women. Administered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the NBCCEDP provides public education and outreach; patient navigation; case management; breast and cervical cancer screenings; and diagnostic services to women. Additionally, states have the option to provide women screened and diagnosed through the program access to treatment services through the state Medicaid program.
Available in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, five US territories, and 11 American Indian/Alaska Native organizations, NBCCEDP has provided over 12 million screening exams to more than 4.8 million women, detecting nearly 68,000 breast cancers, over 3,700 cervical cancers, and over 171,000 premalignant cervical lesions.
New Study Shows the Continued Need for the NBCCEDP
The NBCCEDP is an important tool in the fight against cancer and the need for the program is still strong. A new ACS CAN and National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable study estimates 2.6 million lower-income women (age 40-64) will remain uninsured in 20171 . These women are eligible for breast cancer screenings and services through the NBCCEDP. Similarly, an estimated 5.7 million women (age 21-64) would be eligible for cervical cancer screenings and services through NBCCEDP. The goal of the NBCCEDP is that more women will be screened in a timely manner. Those screened will receive complete and timely diagnostic evaluations and treatment for any detected breast or cervical cancers at earlier stages, when cancer survival rates are highest and costs of treatment are lowest.
The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) and its advocates are committed to increasing both federal and state funding that supports the NBCCEDP to ensure that all mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives have access to lifesaving cancer screenings and treatments.