For more than 30 years, October has been National Breast Cancer Awareness Month in the U.S. Breast cancer is the second most common cancer among women, second only to skin cancer. With more than 240,000 women diagnosed each year, awareness can save lives through early detection and lowering risk.
The main risk factors of breast cancer include being a woman and being older, which means almost any woman can be diagnosed with no family history or other known risk factors. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends healthy living habits such as maintaining a healthy weight, regular exercise, getting plenty of regular nighttime sleep, avoiding carcinogens, and encourages women to breastfeed their children. These steps may help to reduce one’s risk for breast cancer.
The US Preventive Service Task Force recommends that women between the ages of 50 to 74 should have a breast cancer screening called a mammogram every two years. Women in their 40s should begin consulting with a doctor about when to start and how often to get screened, often influenced by any family history of breast cancer. About 10% of breast cancer cases are found in women younger than 45 years old. Men can also get breast cancer, though it is rare; less than 1% of breast cancer diagnoses are found in men.
Breast cancer can present with a wide variety of symptoms or none at all. Symptoms can include a change in size or shape of one’s breast, pain in the area, nipple discharge other than breast milk, or a lump in the breast or underarm. These symptoms can be serious and a doctor should be consulted immediately. Mammograms cannot prevent breast cancer, but it is much easier to treat when detected early. More than 40,000 women die from breast cancer in the U.S. each year.
The Title X federal grant program is dedicated to family planning and preventative health services for low-income families and uninsured people — including cancer screenings. The Trump administration enacted a gag rule this year, forbidding healthcare providers to offer or even refer patients to abortion services, forcing Planned Parenthood and other sexual and reproductive healthcare providers out of the program. Planned Parenthood has served up to 40% of Title X recipients, providing contraceptive care, cancer and sexually transmitted infection (STI) screenings, prenatal care, and other crucial health services. It will be nearly impossible for other health centers to fill the gap being created, with patients in underserved states seeing longer wait times for appointments or going without care. Abortion services will be largely unaffected by the change.
A majority of Title X patients are people of color or low-income. Most patients in the Title X program don’t even realize they’re getting care through this program. For many women, the Trump administration’s gag rule will prevent them from being able to access breast exams and cancer screenings, which can impact the mortality rates from breast cancer. Without cancer screenings and other reproductive health services provided through the Title X program, low-income women are unable to access preventive health care.
NeedyMeds has over 200 national, state, and local programs that help individuals diagnosed with or at risk for breast cancer. These Diagnosis-Based Assistance programs provide financial assistance, mammogram screenings, medical equipment, prostheses, and more. We have a Diagnosis Information Page for Breast Cancer, a collaborative effort between NeedyMeds and the American Breast Cancer Foundation (ABCF). We also have records on more than 4,500 free, low-cost, or sliding scale medical clinics including nearly 500 Planned Parenthood clinics that offer women’s health services. Search your ZIP code and check for “Women’s Health” listed by Services to find locations near you. For assistance finding help near you, check the NeedyMeds website or call our toll-free helpline at 1-800-503-6897.