As Breast Cancer Awareness Month continues, the Department of Health emphasized the importance of continuing breast and cervical cancer screenings. The state has seen many women and individuals postpone these essential screenings due to COVID-19.
“Throughout this month, we wear pink to draw attention to breast cancer awareness and honor those who have fought breast cancer,” Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam said. “Pink should remind us that we are not alone and there is support and programs available to ensure you have access to screenings.”
Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer in women in the state, and the second leading cause of cancer death in women, exceeded only by cancer of the lung and bronchus. In Pennsylvania, Caucasian women are slightly more likely to develop breast cancer than African American women, but African American women are more likely to die of breast cancer.
Cervical cancer is not as common among women in Pennsylvania, but has a lower survival rate. Black women are more likely to develop cervical cancer and die from cervical cancer than Caucasian women.
The United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends the following screening guidelines for breast cancer:
- Women under the age of 40 should be screened if they have symptoms or are at high risk;
- Women ages 40 to 49 should be screened every two years if the patient and the healthcare provider decide it is necessary; and
- Women 50 and older should be screened every two years.
This year, we remind individuals about these essential screenings that may have been postponed due to COVID-19 – now is the time to catch up.”
The Pennsylvania Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (PA-BCCEDP) is a free breast and cervical cancer early detection program funded by the department through a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Free services, like mammograms, MRIs, Pap and HPV tests, and follow-up diagnostic tests for abnormal screening results, are available for those who are eligible.
Eligibility includes women and transgender people with low or moderate income, those who are uninsured or underinsured, and those who meet certain age requirements. PA-BCCEDP clinics throughout the state follow CDC guidelines for safe operations to protect patients from COVID-19.
It is important to know that these guidelines apply if an individual has an average risk for breast cancer. Individuals should consult your medical provider if they have a high risk because of family history, a breast condition or any other reason. PA-BCCEDP will cover annual mammograms for women of any age based on the decision of the client and the provider.
Through PA-BCCEDP, hundreds of healthcare providers throughout Pennsylvania have screened over 97,000 women and diagnosed 4,822 breast and cervical cancers since 1994. Within this fiscal year alone, this program was able to detect cervical and breast cancer for 113 individuals among the nearly 7,000 who utilized the program. In addition to cancer screening services, 3,051 diagnostic services for breast cancer and 682 diagnostic services for cervical cancer have been provided.
Acting Secretary Beam attended the Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition event to turn the Capitol foundation pink for awareness. Additionally, Acting Secretary Beam and Acting Physician General Dr. Denise Johnson joined the Pennsylvania Commission for Women virtually earlier this month to educate individuals about breast cancer awareness and PA-BCCEDP.
Visit the PA-BCCEDP webpage for more details on the program and how to apply.