Breast cancer screening declined by 87% in April 2020, compared with the 5-year screening averages before the COVID-19 pandemic.1 Unfortunately, screening delays may lead to later-stage diagnoses, poor health consequences, and increased cancer disparities, especially among populations already experiencing health inequities.1
Breast Cancer Awareness Month, observed nationally every October, is a good time for employees to remember why breast cancer screening is so important, especially during a pandemic.
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.
- Women at average risk should get screened for breast cancer if they are4,8:
- 25-39 years old—checkup every 1 to 3 years that includes a breast cancer risk assessment
- 40-44 years old—annual mammogram can be considered, in addition to a checkup every year
- 45-54 years old—annual mammogram
- 55 years and older—mammogram every other year, or may choose to continue annually
Women should prioritize breast cancer screening if they have a:
- BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation
- Family history of breast cancer
Annual mammogram screening for those at increased risk might begin as early as 40 years of age.8 It’s 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 rare and accounting for less than 1% of cases, breast cancer can also develop in men. These cases tend to be diagnosed at a more advanced stage since breast changes and lumps don’t often trigger men or their physicians to think “it’s breast cancer7.” Both men and women can lower their cancer risk by maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly, and asking their doctor whether genetic counseling or testing is needed to determine any hereditary risks.5
Doing a breast self-exam at home is a good way to recognize any possible changes. To perform a self-exam,
- Stand in front of a mirror.
- Keep their shoulders square, and put their hands on their hips.
- Examine the breasts for any asymmetry, skin changes, or other changes.
To do a self-exam while lying down, sitting, or standing, individuals can6:
- Using two or three fingers, in a circular motion, examine the entire breast.
- Repeat Step 1 on the other side.
In 2022, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network updated its guidelines for invasive, metastatic, and ductal carcinoma in situ breast cancer types. This in-depth patient resource is available for download for free at nccn.org.
If you find any lumps, changes, or other concerns, be sure to let your doctor know.5
Last updated September 27, 2022
1 Breast cancer screening declined sharply when pandemic started. Breastcancer.org. https://www.breastcancer.org/research-news/screening-declined-sharply-when-pandemic-started. Updated July 23, 2021. Accessed September 26, 2022.
2 How common is breast cancer? American Cancer Society Web site. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/about/how-common-is-breast-cancer.html. Updated September 25, 2022. Accessed September 26, 2022.
3 Breast cancer facts. National Breast Cancer Foundation Web site. https://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/breast-cancer-facts. Updated September 20, 2022. Accessed September 26, 2022.
4 American Cancer Society recommendations for the early detection of breast cancer. American Cancer Society Website. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/screening-tests-and-early-detection/american-cancer-society-recommendations-for-the-early-detection-of-breast-cancer.html. Updated September 25, 2022. Accessed September 26, 2022.
5 Breast cancer in men. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Website. https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/breast/men/index.htm. Updated September 25, 2022. Accessed September 26, 2022.
6 Breast self-exam. Breastcancer.org. https://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/testing/types/self_exam. Updated September 26, 2022. Accessed September 26, 2022.
7 Breast Cancer Myths vs. Facts. https://www.breastcancer.org/facts-statistics/myths-vs-facts#section-myth-breast-cancer-only-happens-to-middle-aged-and-older-women Updated September 26, 2022. Accessed September 26, 2022.
8 National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) Guidelines for Patients: Breast Cancer Screening and Diagnosis, 2022. https://www.nccn.org/patients/guidelines/content/PDF/breastcancerscreening-patient.pdf. Accessed September 30, 2022.