Don’t neglect breast and cervical cancer screenings during COVID-19

    PA Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine is re-emphasizing the importance of continuing breast and cervical cancer screenings during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

    The state has seen many women and transgender individuals postpone these essential screenings due to COVID-19.

    “Regular screening for certain types of cancer, including breast and cervical cancer, are essential to good health and can save lives,” Secretary Levine said. “Although breast cancer screening cannot prevent breast cancer, it can help find breast cancer early when it is easier to treat. It is imperative that all women talk with their health care provider about cancer screening tests to find which one is best, and when they should have them.”

    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.

    Eligible people include those with low or moderate income, those who are uninsured or underinsured, and those who meet certain age requirements. 

    PA-BCCEDP clinics throughout the state are open and following the CDC guidelines for safe operations during the pandemic. 

    Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer 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. 

    African American women are more likely to die of this cancer. 

    Asian, Hispanic and Native American women have a lower risk of developing and dying from breast cancer.

    Cervical cancer is not as common among women in Pennsylvania, but has a lower survival rate, at 66%. 

    Black women are more likely to develop cervical cancer and die from cervical cancer than Caucasian women. 

    Asian, Hispanic and Native American women have a lower risk of developing and dying from cervical cancer.

    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, based on a decision between the patient and the healthcare provider; and

    *Women 50 and older should be screened every two years.

    It is important to know that these guidelines apply if you have an average risk for breast cancer. 

    If you have a high risk because of family history, a breast condition or any other reason, you should consult your medical provider. 

    PA-BCCEDP will cover annual mammograms for women of any age based on the decision of the woman and her provider.

    The National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP) is celebrating its 30th anniversary. 

    NBCCEDP was authorized by the Breast and Cervical Cancer Mortality Prevention Act of 1990, which made funding available to states to screen low-income women for breast and cervical cancer and refer them for treatment, if needed, and to educate women and health care professionals about breast and cervical cancer. 

    The national program has served almost six million women, diagnosing 71,107 breast cancers, 4,863 invasive cervical cancers, and 221,091 premalignant cervical lesions nationwide.

    Through PA-BCCEDP, hundreds of healthcare providers throughout Pennsylvania have screened over 93,000 women and diagnosed 4,718 breast and cervical cancers.

    For more information on breast cancer or the free breast and cervical cancer early detection program, visit or follow the Department of Health on Facebook and Twitter.

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