(Note: This guest blog post was written by Suresh K. Mukherji, MD, MBA, FACR)
Have you put off essential health screenings as a result of the pandemic?
Approximately one in eight women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime, according to the American Cancer Society. This makes it the second leading cause of cancer death among women in the U.S. There is a special emphasis on appropriate screening and early detection of breast cancer, because when breast cancer is detected early there are more treatment choices and better chances for survival. The five-year survival rate for women who are diagnosed at Stage 0 or Stage I cancer is nearly 100 percent, while women who aren’t diagnosed until Stage IV only have about a 22 percent five-year survival rate. Current screening guidelines recommend that women ages 50 to 74 should have a mammogram at least every two years, but screenings are recommended earlier than 50 for certain groups such as African-American women or women with a gene mutation known as BRCA.
Unfortunately, this year, the global pandemic is threatening these important, life-saving screenings. In the early onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many non-essential health services, including mammograms, were delayed, or canceled. Mammograms, which fell 77 percent at the height of the pandemic, are still down 23 percent, according to the New York Times. I have personally seen numerous patients with other types of cancer presenting with more advanced disease because they delayed seeing their physician due to COVID concerns. Many could have cured if they had seen their physicians when they first noticed a “lump”.
With improved infection control procedures, routine preventative services have resumed. So long as a person is not feeling sick or displaying COVID-19 symptoms, it is safe and important for them to receive their annual mammogram screening. Healthcare systems are at the forefront of providing the safest environments to protect patients. So, please to do not hesitate to schedule your mammograms. Please remember that mammograms save lives!