The Department of Health emphasized Wednesday the importance of continued breast and cervical cancer screenings. It is important for people who postponed screenings during COVID-19 to catch up now through an early detection program providing free services to those who qualify.
“Now is the time to make sure you are practicing self-care, and that includes getting your screenings done,” said Acting Secretary of Health and Pennsylvania Physician General Dr. Denise Johnson. “I am so pleased that this year we were able to conduct nearly 1,600 more screenings than last year, and we’d like to increase that number as more people become aware that early detection saves lives.”
Breast cancer is the most frequent type 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 and has a lower survival rate. Black women are more likely to develop cervical cancer and die from cervical cancer than white 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.
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, transgender, and non-binary 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 their 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 eligible women, transgender, and non-binary people of any age based on the decision of the client and the provider.
Through PA-BCCEDP, hundreds of healthcare providers throughout Pennsylvania have provided more than 105,000 screenings and diagnosed 4,946 breast and cervical cancers since 1994. Within this fiscal year alone, this program was able to detect cervical and breast cancer for 124 individuals among the nearly 8,600 who utilized the program. In addition to cancer screening services, 3,323 diagnostic services for breast cancer and 475 diagnostic services for cervical cancer have been provided.
Later this month, Dr. Johnson will join the Pennsylvania Commission for Women 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.