While the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic forced many patients to delay routine care, including annual cancer screenings, rates for screenings are picking back up. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported earlier this year that breast and cervical cancer screenings declined over 80% in the first part of 2020, particularly among women of color. These numbers have steadily increased back to pre-pandemic levels in recent months, but screenings among women of color remain low.
These sobering statistics from BreastCancer.org show just how serious breast cancer can be:
- Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed type of cancer among women in the United States.
- Other than lung cancer, no other type of cancer has a higher death rate than breast cancer among American women.
- This year alone, over 300,000 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in both men and women.
For these reasons, it’s key to ensure patients receive regular breast cancer screenings. While screenings cannot prevent breast cancer, they do aid in early detection. The earlier breast cancer is found, the more treatment options are available and the better the chance for survival.
Why Early Detection Matters
The costs of treating breast cancer are staggering—for the patient, the organizations helping to treat that patient, and the health plan covering treatment. Patient cost estimates range from $20,000 to over $100,000, depending on the stage and method of treatment. For insurers and the organizations treating patients, the costs are even higher.
Beyond financial cost, the cost of life can also be significant. While survivability of breast cancer overall is much higher now than it was just a decade ago, the five-year outlook for breast cancer survival decreases as the diagnosis stage increases. If the cancer has spread beyond the breast to nearby lymph nodes or other areas of the body, survivability also decreases—down to a frightening 29% for metastasized breast cancer.
As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Early detection and diagnosis of breast cancer can not only save money and resources for healthcare organizations, but, more importantly, save patients’ lives.
Patient Impact Story
Mohawk Industries, the world’s largest flooring retailer, has first-hand experience with early breast cancer detection. As a self-insured employer, they provide healthcare services for all employees through Cigna Onsite Health clinics and use Lightbeam’s population health management platform to provide care teams with the information needed to schedule patient visits.
Desiring to provide proactive rather than reactive care, Mohawk worked with Lightbeam to run a campaign for annual breast cancer screenings. Using Lightbeam’s Cohort Builder, Mohawk identified all female employees who were past due for a breast screening, then began targeting these patients through scheduling outreach to ensure they receive an appointment. This resulted in one patient coming in for a screening and subsequently being diagnosed with breast cancer. Because this patient was past due for a mammogram at the time of diagnosis, there is no way of knowing when she might have come in for a screening on her own. The efforts of Mohawk’s care teams meant that this patient was diagnosed sooner rather than later, potentially saving her life in the process.
You can read the full Mohawk patient impact story here.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so it’s a perfect time to reach out to patients and educate them on the importance of annual cancer screenings. If you are using a population health management platform like Lightbeam, ensure that you identify and target patients who may be past due for a screening or are at higher risk for developing cancer.
For additional breast cancer resources and education, we encourage you to visit the following:
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- National Breast Cancer Foundation
- American Cancer Society
Jessica Scruton, BSN, RN, CCM, is Lightbeam’s VP of Clinical Transformation.