As COVID-19 cases continue to surge across the country, many people are putting off annual wellness checks and routine doctors’ appointments for fear of exposure to the virus. For women, that includes postponing their yearly mammograms. As a Board-certified radiologist and breast cancer specialist, I encourage my female patients to go ahead and schedule their mammogram appointments now, rather than waiting for the pandemic to pass. Here’s why.
Weighing the Risks
Yes, the risk of COVID-19 is very real, but so is the risk of breast cancer. Recent studies show that because so many women are skipping their annual mammograms, more than 35,000 breast cancer diagnoses may be delayed and an additional 5,200 woman may die in the U.S. over the next decade. Postponing breast screenings opens the door for breast cancers to advance unchecked, becoming less treatable and more deadly.
The bottom line is this: mammograms save lives. This is still true — pandemic or no pandemic. The hesitations and fears woman have are understandable, but also addressable. Here’s some information that may help you feel more comfortable and confident about getting your mammogram sooner rather than later.
Know that radiology facilities are taking extra measures to keep patients safe, including following strict COVID-19 guidelines put in place by the CDC, American College of Radiology, and Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services. As such, healthcare appointments now include multiple precautions to protect patients, including temperature checks, social distancing, limiting the number of people in waiting rooms, and mandatory masks.
Voice Your Concerns
Your concerns are valid. So when calling to schedule your mammogram, go ahead and address any questions you might have with your provider. Ask about the protocols they’ve put in place to keep you safe during your screening, and be sure to follow those guidelines when you go in for your appointment. Working together, you and your radiologist can help protect yourself against breast cancer as well as the virus.
To learn more about the life-saving importance of breast screenings, visit MammographySavesLives.org. Post your questions in the comments, and I’ll do my best to answer them.