Although National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is coming to an end, providers and patients don’t need to stop thinking pink. Physician practices, in particular, are on the frontlines of healthcare and in a unique position to educate their patient populations about breast cancer and encourage prevention year-round.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women, with one in eight in the United States diagnosed in their lifetime. It’s estimated that more than 40,500 American women diagnosed with breast cancer die annually, and it’s the second leading cause of cancer deaths for females. Although rarer, about 2,470 men are also diagnosed with the disease each year.
While these statistics are startling, there is data that offers a glimmer of hope. Between 1989 and 2015, the American Cancer Society (ACS) reports that the breast cancer death rate in females has decreased by 40%, averting approximately 322,600 deaths. The study found that the decline in fatalities can be attributed to advances in treatment technology as well as increased utilization of early detection mammography. The latter is especially relevant to physician practices across specialties, as they can quite literally help save lives by promoting preventive health.
Below are three tactics that can help medical groups promote breast cancer awareness and prevention. These strategies, in particular, can also be utilized for other types of diseases such as lung or colorectal cancer.
- Leverage Any Encounter to Discuss Breast Cancer Prevention: Outpatient providers are oftentimes the first touch point on the patient journey. No matter the reason for a patient appointment, whether it’s for an annual wellness checkup, specific ailment, or chronic disease management, physicians have an opportunity to remind patients about the risk of breast cancer and encourage prevention. Educational efforts can also go beyond the exam room. Providers can survey patients during visits to see if they’re interested in enrolling in a follow-up program to receive educational content by way of automated outreach or direct mail.
- Use Other Forms of Prevention as a Segue to Discuss Breast Cancer: According to a study published in Radiology, women who are already coming in for screening mammography are likely to be more receptive to other types of prevention. Applying this same logic in reverse, specialists who are performing other preventive healthcare services for female patients, such as OB/GYNs providing cervical cancer screenings or orthopedists carrying out osteoporosis exams, are in a better position to have conversations about the importance of breast cancer prevention. Providers across the continuum can play a role in keeping patients healthy.
- Embrace Technology To Help Patients Manage Their Health Proactively: Physician practices can help keep patients engaged with their health by utilizing outreach technology, such as preventive health reminders. With automated preventive health outreach, providers are more likely to get through to patients to schedule mammograms because they’re reaching a higher volume of patients by using preferred means of communication, including calls, text messages, and emails. As an added benefit, automated outreach eases the administrative burden on practice staff, allowing providers to spend more time in the exam room delivering patient care.
Routine screenings play a big part in helping to detect breast and other cancers earlier and increase the chances of fighting it before it spreads. The outsized role that medical practices can play in saving lives is crucial to this effort, and promoting breast cancer awareness and prevention is a shared responsibility across specialties and care teams, 12 months a year.
For more information about how physician practices can encourage patients to actively engage in their care, check out these resources: