Each year, roughly 7,350 women in New Jersey learn they have breast cancer, the second most common type of cancer diagnosed in the state. It is also the second most frequent cause of cancer-related deaths for this demographic, ending the lives of 1,320 women in the Garden State each year.
With more people generally being diagnosed with breast cancer in New Jersey year after year, and the state’s incidence and mortality rates outpacing the national average for many demographics, screening for the disease becomes all the more important. “We know that early detection saves lives,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal.
According to New Jersey State Health Assessment Data (NJSHAD), 7,501 women were found to have breast cancer in 2013, up from 6,226 in 1990. In addition, New Jersey is one of eight states with the highest breast cancer rates nationally, according to federal data from 2015 for women of all races. As many as 146 in 100,000 women were diagnosed here, versus an average of 125 in 100,000 nationwide. The mortality rate here is also several points higher than in the country at large.
To mark this as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Elnahal and his colleagues at the New Jersey Department of Health are highlighting the work of the New Jersey Cancer Education and Early Detection Program (NJCEED), which works with nearly two dozen facilities across the state to provide cancer screenings, case management, and related services for low-income and uninsured residents. The services are free of charge to those who earn less than 250 percent of the federal poverty level ($62,750 annually for a family of four). The program also provides testing for cervical, colorectal and prostate cancers.
“NJCEED ensures all women and men have access to vital cancer screening services, regardless of their insurance status or income level,” Elnahal said. The group has conducted nearly 156,000 mammograms over the last decade, diagnosing nearly 1,800 cases of breast cancer, he said.