October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month
The value of wellness and health screening benefits
Thanks to the advent of Breast Cancer Awareness Month every October, more and more people know about what was once a dreaded disease. And while breast cancer can still be deadly, more breast cancer survivors are living among us today thanks to early detection.
How common is breast cancer?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, breast cancer is women's most commonly diagnosed cancer.
- Cancer.net indicates the overall death rate from breast cancer decreased by 1% per year from 2013 to 2018.
- The American Cancer Society's Journal, A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, says that as of January 1, 2022, there were approximately 4.1 million women with a history of breast cancer living in the United States, with around 4% of these women living with metastatic disease, more than half of whom were initially diagnosed with early stage (I-III) cancers. [i]
- Breastcancer.org credits treatment advances and earlier detection through screenings for the decrease in deaths.
It's essential to understand screening options to detect breast cancer. According to The National Cancer Institute, mammography is the most common screening test for breast cancer, with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) used for women at high risk. Self-exams and clinical breast exams are other standard screening methods as well.
In a recent Verywellhealth.com article, Where to Find Low-Cost or Free Mammograms, the average cost for a mammogram ranges from $100 to $250, with diagnostic mammograms possibly even more expensive. Many insurance plans cover mammograms, and Medicare and Medicaid cover a yearly mammogram or one every two years for women over the age of 40. Even with insurance, mammograms can be expensive. While many employers offer medical plans that cover mammograms, workers may still be left with co-pays and co-insurance. The good news for employers and HR staff is that there are ways to provide preventive screening benefits at little to no cost to the organization.
Providing access to a robust benefits portfolio which includes wellness benefits, is the first step, but there are other ways employers can support their staff. One way employers can help is to educate their employees about breast cancer and early detection, promoting wellness within and outside the workplace. Employers should also consider accommodating time off for well checks and screening mammograms.
Thousands of lives could be saved each year if people were more aware of the signs and symptoms of cancer and people looked for help as soon as possible, as treatment is usually more effective in the early stages of cancer.
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 25 Gallicchio L, Devasia TP, Tonorezos E, Mollica MA, Mariotto A. Estimation of the numbers of individuals living with metastatic cancer in the United States [published online ahead of print, 2022 Aug 22]. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2022:djac158. doi: 10.1093/jnci/djac158