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September 27, 2021

Why breast cancer screening is more important than ever

Compared to the five-year averages before the COVID-19 pandemic, breast cancer screening tests declined by 87% in April 2020. Unfortunately, screening delays may lead to later-stage diagnoses, poor health consequences, and increased cancer disparities among women and men already experiencing health inequities.1

Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a good time for employees to remember why breast cancer screening is so important, especially during a pandemic.

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Breast cancer’s national impact

In the United States, 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer during her lifetime and a person receives a new diagnosis every two minutes. The good news is there are 3.5 million breast cancer survivors.2,3 Getting regular breast cancer screenings can help ensure that the number of survivors keeps rising.

Screening recommendations

Women at average risk should get screened for breast cancer if they’re4:

  • Between 40 and 44 years old—annually if recommended by their doctor
  • Between 45 and 54 year olds—annually
  • 50 years old or older—every other year

Women should prioritize breast cancer screening if they have a4:

  • BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation
  • Family history of breast cancer
  • Personal history of radiation therapy to the chest

It’s also important to remember that individual risks may be different than those of the general population, which is why women should ask their doctor for personalized recommendations.

Though it’s rare, men can develop breast cancer too. Men and women both can lower their cancer risk by maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly, and asking their doctor about whether genetic counseling or testing is needed to determine any hereditary risks.5

Self-exam tips

Doing a breast self-exam at home is a good way to recognize any possible changes. To perform a self-exam, individuals can6:

  1. Stand in front of a mirror.
  2. Keep their shoulders square, and put their hands on their hips.
  3. Examine the breasts for any asymmetry, skin changes, or other changes.

To do a self-exam while lying down, sitting, or standing, individuals can6:

  1. Using two or three fingers, in a circular motion, examine the entire breast.
  2. Repeat Step 1 on the other side.

If you find any lumps, changes, or other concerns, be sure to let your doctor know.6



Last updated September 27, 2021

1 Breast cancer screening declined sharply when pandemic started. Updated July 23, 2021. Accessed August 20, 2021.
2 How common is breast cancer? American Cancer Society Web site. Updated May 7, 2021. Accessed August 20, 2021.
3 Breast cancer facts. National Breast Cancer Foundation Web site. Updated April 15, 2020. Accessed August 20, 2021.
4 American Cancer Society recommendations for the early detection of breast cancer. American Cancer Society Web site. Updated April 22, 2021. Accessed August 23, 2021.
5 Breast cancer in men. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site. Updated August 11, 2020. Accessed August 26, 2021.
6 Breast self-exam. Updated October 24, 2019. Accessed August 23, 2021.



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