October is breast cancer awareness month. This is an opportunity to remind Arkansans of the importance of mammograms for early detection and lifestyle changes that could help prevent cancer.
Mammograms are the best way to find breast cancer early when it is easier to treat, and before it is big enough to feel or cause symptoms.
It is important to still get checked for breast cancer regularly, even during the COVID-19 pandemic. As long as you’re not feeling sick or having any COVID-19 symptoms, experts say it’s safe to get a mammogram.
In 2017, there were 2,163 new breast cancer cases and 414 cancer deaths in the state. However, Arkansas is ranked as one of the lowest states (37th) for breast cancer screening, according to the CDC Wonder (2018).
Other than skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women.
In 2017, the General Assembly passed Act 708, which ensures that insurance policies cover annual mammograms for women over 40. It also ensures that 3D mammograms or ultrasounds are covered for women with dense breast tissue. While traditional mammograms are effective for many women, the ultrasound can detect changes in women with dense breast tissue.
Only about 5–10% of breast cancers are believed to be hereditary, meaning they’re caused by abnormal changes in certain genes passed from parent to child.
The vast majority of people who get breast cancer have no family history, suggesting that other factors must be at work, such as environment and lifestyle.
If you are uninsured or underinsured, you may qualify for a free or low-cost mammogram through the Arkansas BreastCare program.
BreastCare’s mission is to increase the rate of early detection of breast and cervical cancer and reduce the morbidity and mortality rates among women in Arkansas by lowering barriers to screening that result from lack of information, financial means, or access to quality services.
It is funded by the Arkansas Department of Health with support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Arkansas Tobacco Excise Tax.
For more information, visit www.healthy.arkansas.gov.