It’s October, and you know what that means: falling leaves, Halloween, and — of most importance — Breast Cancer Awareness Month!

While there’s much broader familiarity with breast cancer now than when this annual campaign started back in the 1980s, there is still an important need to educate people about how to spot early warning signs or even prevent this kind of cancer. According to, more than 330,000 women are expected to be diagnosed with this disease in 2021 alone.

Even worse, the COVID-19 pandemic led to a major setback in routine cancer screenings, those all-important efforts to detect breast cancer in its earliest stages, when women have the best chance of living. Clinical experts worry that women who are diagnosed now will be more likely to have cancer in an advanced stage compared to the usual, non-pandemic rates.

Here at Myriad Genetics, breast cancer was one of the very first diseases for which we offered genetic testing to help assess risk. Helping women overcome or prevent breast cancer remains one of our driving missions. In that spirit, we offer this quick roundup of things you can do now to avoid being diagnosed with a late-stage form of breast cancer.

Get Back to Screening

For everyone — but especially for those who skipped routine healthcare visits in the past two years — take this month as an opportunity to get back to screening. That may be breast self-exams, an exam with your doctor, or the mammograms, ultrasounds, and breast MRIs recommended for average and higher risk individuals. Doctors’ offices have been working hard to keep COVID-19 infections out of their offices for your safety.

Know the Risk Factors

Like other types of cancer, the risk of breast cancer can be lowered by exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy BMI, avoiding smoking, and not drinking excessive amounts of alcohol. It’s also important to know about other risk factors, even if you can’t change them: older age, a family history of breast cancer, and dense breast tissue, among others. It’s always a good idea to review these risk factors with your doctor.

Understand Your Hereditary Risk

One of the most important risk factors for developing breast cancer is genetics. Women with a close relative diagnosed with breast cancer are at significantly higher risk of developing it themselves. Understanding how your own genetics could affect your breast cancer risk is an essential element to ensuring that you receive the most appropriate level of screening. Genetic testing can help answer that question, and we encourage all women to take the hereditary cancer quiz and find out whether a test is right for them.

Myriad Genetics at J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference

Paul J. Diaz, president and chief executive officer, Bryan Riggsbee, chief financial officer, and Dale Muzzey, chief scientific officer, presented at the 41st annual J.P. Morgan (JPM) Healthcare Conference.