Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Submitted by Department of Human Health Services


The Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) reports that breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed among Montana women, accounting for 31% of new cancers.

Breast cancer is a disease in which cells in the breast grow out of control, and these cells can also spread, or metastasize, to other parts of the body.

Breast cancer screening means checking a woman’s breasts for cancer before there are signs or symptoms of the disease. Mammograms are the best method to detect breast cancer early when it is easier to treat and before it is big enough to feel or cause symptoms. The likelihood of surviving breast cancer increases when the cancer is detected at an early stage.

“Detecting cancer early when treatment works best is critical to saving lives,” said DPHHS Cancer Control Programs (MCCP) Section Supervisor Leah Merchant. “Starting at age 40, women should talk to their medical provider about the benefits of screening, and women of average risk age 50 to 74 years old should have a mammogram done every 2 years.”

This year, it’s estimated that over 281,000 women will be diagnosed in the U.S., including 920 new cases in Montana.

Some women may need to begin screening at a younger age due to personal or family health history or based on a doctor’s recommendation.

Merchant states that most health insurance plans cover the cost of screening mammograms. For women who lack adequate insurance, the MCCP provides free breast and cervical cancer screenings (mammograms and Pap tests) and diagnostic services. Breast and cervical cancer screening services are available statewide, and local health department staff can help schedule screening appointments.

Over the past five years, a total of 5,932 Montana women who lacked adequate insurance received free breast cancer screening and diagnostic services through the MCCP.

Free local breast and cervical cancer screening services are available statewide for women who meet income guidelines. To be connected to screenings in your community, call the program’s toll-free number, 1-888-803-9343, or visit

All Montanans can help reduce their cancer risk by practicing healthy lifestyle behaviors:

Maintain a healthy weight

Engage in regular physical activity

Don’t drink alcohol, or limit alcoholic drinks to no more than one per day

Talk to your doctor about family health history and other ways to lower cancer risk

DPHHS will also be sharing information and screening reminders on social media throughout the month of October via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. DPHHS encourages Montanans to share the informational posts and use hashtags #BreastCancer #MCCP #Health406.