What You Should Know about Breast Cancer and Women’s Preventive Screenings

Breast cancer is the number two cause of cancer deaths among women in the U.S. Screening is the number one way to detect breast cancer.
Prevent Breast Cancer

Preventive care could save your life. Screening for breast cancer can help detect the disease in its early stages, when it’s easier to treat. However, not all groups agree with the screening guidelines. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force says women should start testing at age 50 and repeat the test every two years. Other groups suggest other beginning screening ages as early as 40 for women of average risk, or women with no family history of breast cancer.  Bear in mind that your doctor may want you to be screened earlier if you have a family history. That’s why it is important to establish a healthy relationship with your doctor, so that you can identify the right screening guidelines for your situation.

You may not know: the Affordable Care Act (ACA) covers mammograms for women over age 40. Based on your insurance plan, you may be able to get mammograms at no cost to you.

Women in their 40's 
Talk to your doctor about when you should start having breast cancer screenings. Together you can decide what's best for you based on your risk level. Here are a few talking points to bring up at your appointment:

  • Your risk of breast cancer
  • The benefits of mammograms to help find breast cancer early
  • Risks and limits of mammograms, which may show tissue that doesn’t look normal but turns out to be normal.
  • The role of breast self-exams in helping you become more familiar with your breasts, which may help you find abnormalities or changes
  • Your family history
  • The role of a clinical breast exam by your doctor 

Women  in their 50's or older 
For women ages 50 to 74, talk with your doctor about getting mammograms every 2 years. Based on your risk level, you may choose to get them more often. An open communication with your doctor can help you decide what’s best for you.

Well-woman visit
You should also think about a yearly well-woman visit with a doctor or nurse practitioner . The well-woman visit can go a long way to help you stay healthy. All Health Insurance Marketplace health plans and many other plans must cover the yearly health exam for women without charging you a copayment or coinsurance at an in-network provider. This is true even if you haven’t met your yearly deductible.

Well-woman visits involve a full health exam, apart from any other visit for sickness or injury. These visits focus on preventive care for women, which may include:

  • Services, like vaccinations, that help your health by preventing diseases and other health problems
  • Tests to check for diseases early when they may be simpler to treat
  • Education and counseling 

Cancer screening
As with the well-woman visits, all Marketplace plans and many other plans will cover these cancer screening services without charging you a copayment or coinsurance at an in-network provider, whether or not you’ve met your yearly deductible.

  • Breast cancer Genetic Test Counseling (BRCA) for BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations to learn the benefits and risks of genetic testing
  • Breast cancer Chemoprevention counseling to see if chemoprevention drugs will lower your chance of getting breast cancer
  • Pap tests to screen for cervical cancer
  • Colorectal cancer screening for colon or rectum cancer

Your life isn’t worth the risk of not getting screened. Are you up-to-date on proper preventive care?

Resources: CDCMayo ClinicU.S. Preventive Services Task Force; American Cancer Society

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