Health and Economic Benefits of Breast Cancer Interventions
Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States, and breast cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in women.1 The risk of breast cancer increases with age. About 83% of breast cancer diagnoses each year are among women aged 50 or older.1
Breast Cancer in the United States
- 264,121 new cases of breast cancer were diagnosed in 2019, and 42,280 women died of it.1
- Death rates have been going down, but disparities persist.1 The rate of new breast cancer cases is highest among non-Hispanic White women, but the death rate is highest among non-Hispanic Black women.1
- Breast cancer has the highest treatment cost of any cancer, accounting for 14% of all cancer treatment costs.2
- The cost for medical services was $26.2 billion and $3.5 billion for prescription drugs.2
- If cancer diagnosis and treatment were divided into phases of care, then the initial phase would be the first year after a diagnosis, the end-of-life phase would be the year before death from cancer, and continuing care phase would be the time in between these two phases. The average per-patient costs for medical services were highest for the end-of-life phase ($76,100), followed by the initial care phase ($35,000) and continuing care phase ($3,500).2
- The average per-patient costs for oral prescription drugs were highest for the end-of-life phase ($2,700), followed by the initial care phase ($1,100) and continuing care phase ($830).2
Benefits of Using Proven Strategies
More breast cancer screening would:
- REDUCE deaths. Compared to no screening, screening every 2 years for women aged 50 to 74 reduces breast cancer deaths by 26% or 7 deaths averted for every 1,000 women screened.5
- DECREASE the number of women diagnosed with late-stage cancer. Screening has contributed to a 29% reduction in the number of women diagnosed with breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.6
- DETECT cancer sooner when it is easier to treat. Almost 98% of women diagnosed with breast cancer at the earliest stage live for 5 years or more, compared to about 31% of those diagnosed at the most advanced stage.1
- REDUCE health care spending. Breast cancers diagnosed at an early stage are much less expensive to treat than those diagnosed at a late stage.7,8
Strategies That Work
CDC is working to prevent cancer, detect it early, and improve the health of people with cancer, which can save lives and reduce health care costs.
To help find breast cancer early, the US Preventive Services Task Force recommends that women aged 50 to 74 who are at average risk of breast cancer get a mammogram every 2 years.3 Women aged 40 to 49 should talk to their doctor or other health care professional about when to start and how often to get a mammogram.
Women should weigh the benefits and risks of screening tests when deciding whether to begin getting mammograms before age 50.
What Is CDC doing?
CDC’s National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP) helps women with low incomes who are uninsured or underinsured get access to timely breast and cervical cancer screening and diagnosis services. Congress passed the Breast and Cervical Cancer Prevention and Treatment Act, which allows states to use Medicaid to cover treatment for women diagnosed with cancer through the NBCCEDP.
The NBCCEDP supports all 50 states, the District of Columbia, 7 US territories, and 13 American Indian or Alaska Native tribes or tribal organizations.
NBCCEDP strategies include:
- Funding screening and diagnostic services for eligible women.
- Providing case management to help women navigate a complex health system.
- Supporting population-based approaches that increase high-quality breast and cervical cancer screening.
Since 1991, NBCCEDP-funded programs have:
- Served more than 6.1 million women.
- Provided more than 15.7 million breast and cervical cancer screening exams.
- Diagnosed 75,961 invasive breast cancers and 24,024 premalignant breast lesions.
About 5.3% of US women aged 40 to 64 were eligible for NBCCEDP breast cancer screening services during 2016–2017, based on income and lack of health insurance. The program served 15% of eligible women during this time.4
- Cancer Statistics Working Group. U.S. Cancer Statistics Data Visualizations Tool, based on 2021 submission data (1999–2019): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Cancer Institute; www.cdc.gov/cancer/dataviz, released in November 2022.
- National Cancer Institute. Financial burden of cancer care. Cancer Trends Progress Report. Updated April 2022. Accessed November 4, 2022. https://progressreport.cancer.gov/after/economic_burden
- Siu AL; U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Screening for breast cancer: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. Ann Intern Med. 2016;164(4):279-96.
- Tangka F, Kenny K, Miller J, Howard DH. The eligibility and reach of the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program after implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Cancer Causes Control. 2020;31(5):473–489.
- Mandelblatt JS, Stout NK, Schechter CB, et al. Collaborative modeling of the benefits and harms associated with different US breast cancer screening strategies. Ann Intern Med. 2016;164(4):215–225.
- Gangnon RE, Sprague BL, Stout NK, et al. The contribution of mammography screening to breast cancer incidence trends in the United States: an updated age-period-cohort model. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2015;24(6):905–912.
- Blumen H, Fitch K, Polkus V. Comparison of treatment costs for breast cancer, by tumor stage and type of service. Am Health Drug Benefits. 2016;9(1):23–32.
- Subramanian S, Trogdon J, Ekwueme DU, Gardner JG, Whitmire JT, Rao C. Cost of breast cancer treatment in Medicaid: implications for state programs providing coverage for low-income women. Med Care. 2011;49(1):89–95.