October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) is encouraging women to talk with their healthcare providers about getting screened.

According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc., one in eight women will develop breast cancer. It is the most common form of cancer and the second leading cause of death among women. In 2018, there were 2,339 new breast cancer cases and 368 cancer deaths in the state. However, Arkansas is ranked one of the lowest states (37th) for breast cancer screening, according to the American Cancer Society (2018).

In 1997, the Arkansas General Assembly passed the Breast Cancer Act, which led to the ADH’s BreastCare program. The BreastCare program served 8,403 women in fiscal year 2021. Services included 3,057 mammograms and 4,691 pap tests, which resulted in 62 Arkansas women diagnosed with breast or cervical cancer.

Seventy-seven percent of women who were diagnosed with breast cancer while in the BreastCare program were found to have early-stage cancer (stage 0, I, or II). Cancers diagnosed at late stages (III or IV) are generally associated with poor outcomes and higher treatment costs. Breast and cervical screening services are important for early detection and better treatment outcomes.

The BreastCare program has coordinated efforts with a statewide network of providers offering no cost screenings and follow-up services to eligible women who are uninsured or underinsured. Women age 21-64 can be screened for cervical cancer, and women age 40-64 can be screened for breast cancer, regardless of ethnicity or nationality.

In addition to screening and diagnostic services, BreastCare provides educational information to communities about the importance of regular breast exams as well as the risks associated with breast cancer. Women who are diagnosed at earlier stages have a greater chance of survival.

BreastCare covers breast cancer screening starting at age 40 and follows the United States Preventive Services Taskforce guidelines. According to those guidelines, women aged 40-49 should talk with their provider to see when they should start breast cancer screening. For women aged 50-74 breast cancer screening should occur every two years.

Call 501-661-2942 or visit www.ARBreastCare.com for more information on eligibility and providers.

For more information about BreastCare, visit www.healthy.arkansas.gov.