WASHINGTON, D.C. – One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, touching the lives of millions of Americans – and many more worldwide. Therefore, the American Clinical Laboratory Association (ACLA) today recognizes Breast Cancer Awareness Month as a time to encourage diagnostic lab testing and early detection as some of the most powerful tools in fighting the disease.
Despite the prevalence of breast cancer, death rates have declined steadily over the past two decades. However, each year over 220,000 women will still be diagnosed with breast cancer and more than 40,000 of those will lose their lives to this pervasive disease. Early detection has played a critical role in reeling back mortality and extending the lives of women, and will continue to be an essential tool in battling breast cancer.
“Breast cancer can often be caught earlier, treated more effectively, and potentially even prevented with the help of laboratory testing,” said ACLA President, Alan Mertz. “Regular doctor visits will provide patients with screening tests that can identify the disease in its earliest stages, when it can be addressed most successfully.”
Some of the most important early identification tools in use today were developed by the clinical lab community. In fact, tests that identify the presence of the hereditary breast cancer gene and predict the effectiveness of chemotherapy and chance of recurrence now exist. The result: earlier, more consistent detection and increasingly effective, personalized treatment options.
Most importantly, though, these tests have saved lives.
“Clinical lab tests are vital, especially for breast cancer patients, as they help provide patients with the opportunity to manage their cancer risks,” said Mertz. “This can make a significant difference not only the health of patients, but for their economic wellbeing.”
A 2009 National Institutes of Health (NIH) study estimated that per-patient costs of breast cancer ranged from $20,000 to $100,000, and today out-of-pocket costs reach even higher. Additionally, the NIH estimates that the disease costs Americans a total of $16.5 billion each year. Cost-effective clinical testing, therefore, can save patients – and the American healthcare system – millions of dollars.
Ultimately, Breast Cancer Awareness Month marks a crucial moment to consider all aspects of care, and the future of breast cancer treatment.
“Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a ideal time for women, their families, and their care providers to be aware of the best medical and scientific tools available,” said Mertz. “As we make strides in clinical testing, we make strides in making breast cancer a thing of the past. And that leads to a better future for all.”