Breast Cancer Awareness - Schedule your screening!
Breast cancer is one of the leading causes of death by cancer, but early preventative screenings can find the cancer when it is more treatable. Less than 30 minutes of your time every 1-2 years will increase the chance of finding breast cancer at an earlier, treatable stage. Dr. Tracy Hamill explains more in her article.
Amid busy lives and hectic schedules, it can be difficult to remember the “preventative maintenance” aspects of life. As women we frequently forget to schedule time for self-care as we worry about the everyday tasks of work and family. While October brings cooler weather and changing leaves for many, it also can mean increased demands with school, sports, and end of year job responsibilities. With all of that, who has time to worry about cancer?
According to statistics shared by breastcancer.org, in 2021 an estimated 281,550 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in the US. In addition to another 49,000+ cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer. Breast cancer deaths in the US remain higher for woman than any other cancer besides lung cancer, resulting in about 1 in 8 women in the US developing invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime.
Despite these sobering statistics, there are some pieces of good news with death rates from breast cancer in women over age 50 dropping since 2007, decreasing by 1% per year from 2013 to 2018. This steady decline is largely felt to be the result of treatment advances and earlier detection through screening. The combination of these advancements and screenings put working women of “middle age” (50-65) in a strong position to advocate for themselves and control their capacity to continue to be productive in a home and work environment.
While symptomatic breast disease (lumps, skin or nipple changes, etc) should be aggressively investigated at any age, screening is indicated for asymptomatic women in that target “middle age” group that do not have any other increased risk factors for breast cancer. Current recommendations for screening from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and US Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) are for biennial (every 2 year) screening mammograms for women aged 50-74 with individual decision making for women 40-49 in conjunction with their healthcare providers.
Less than 30 minutes of your time every 1-2 years will increase the chance of finding breast cancer at an earlier, treatable stage.
With advances in breast conservation surgery, and in both directed radiation and chemo/medication therapy, many women can effectively treat early breast cancers with minimal disruption to their work or family lives. Information on the American Cancer Society website indicates “some people are able to keep working while they’re getting cancer treatment. Some people work their usual full-time schedules. Some work the same schedules under special conditions (accommodations)…so it’s easier to deal with side effects. Others need a less demanding schedule, like taking extra days off or even working part time for a while.” Breastcancer.org offers tips regarding ways to manage the emotions, physical and legal aspects of balancing job and treatment. Employer HR departments and EAPs can also be valuable resources during treatment and beyond.
The most valuable tool we have is the knowledge that small amounts of time and effort are needed to help detect breast cancer in otherwise asymptomatic women. Although, no one thinks it will ever happen to them, screening for early detection will hopefully assist in decreasing negative outcomes for many. Celebrate the end of National Breast Cancer Awareness month by scheduling your mammogram, and have one less thing to worry about!
P.S. Once you have your mammogram, and you have a Sun Life supplemental health plan with a wellness benefit, remember to request that your wellness benefit be paid to you!
This article is meant to provide general information only. It’s not professional medical or legal advice, or a substitute for that advice.
Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada, Wellesley Hills, MA. For New York group policies: Sun Life and Health Insurance Company (U.S.), Lansing, MI