Published on July 17, 2020
Don't Delay Your Breast Cancer Screening Because of COVID-19
Mammograms Matter, Schedule Yours Today
You know what they say about an ounce of prevention. It’s true. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important to stay on top of your preventative screenings.
“Unfortunately, breast cancer does not take a break during pandemics and neither should you with scheduling your annual screening mammogram,” says Advanced Radiology, Maryland's largest provider of outpatient medical imaging services.
Neglecting preventive services like mammograms may result in diagnoses at later stages. I’m talking to myself here. I’m overdue for a screening and writing this is my reminder to make that call.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) lists mammograms as the most common form of screening before a woman has any symptoms of breast cancer.
Understanding Aggressive Breast Cancers
Approximately one in eight women in the United States will develop breast cancer during her lifetime. The American Cancer Society estimates 276,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women in the United States in 2020, along with 48,530 new cases of non-invasive breast cancer.
“Many of the more aggressive breast cancers present in a de novo fashion. De novo means not early stage. It means it wasn't caught early,” said Dr. Jeremy Force, a Medical Oncologist at Duke University.
Metastatic breast cancer, also called stage IV, is breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body. And de novo means that the cancer was metastatic at first diagnosis.
“And so you can imagine somebody who has a more aggressive form of cancer, it might present in that de novo fashion where it just shows up and it has spread to somewhere other than the local regional area,” Dr. Force added.
Tumors may not only be in the breast tissue but in the lymph nodes of the armpit or other organs in the body as well, in the case of metastatic breast cancer.
The Importance of Mammograms
Mammograms are able to detect even the smallest discrepancy in breast tissue and having an annual breast cancer screening is important for comparisons. Many breast cancers can be detected before a lump is palpable. Patient Power has an excellent article that outlines, What Does a Breast Lump Feel Like?
“In general, cancerous breast lumps tend to be more irregular in shape. They may also feel firm or solid and might be fixed to the tissue in the breast. They are also often painless. However, in a small percentage of women, a painful breast lump turns out to be cancer,” according to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
Staying Safe While Getting a Mammogram
Many health care practices are using extra precautions to keep you safe during the coronavirus pandemic:
- Flexible appointment times
- Temperature checks for staff and patients
- Social distancing
- Hand-sanitizing stations
- Enhanced cleaning and disinfecting
- ‘No visitor’ policies
If you’re apprehensive about scheduling your mammogram, call your hospital or clinic and ask about their COVID-19 safety measures. As Advanced Radiology emphasizes, “Take action today — please do not unnecessarily delay your breast health needs during this time.”
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~Lauren Evoy Davis
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