We are now seeing the medical community talk about the impact Covid-19 has had on the diagnosis and treatment of cancer patients.
In the Essex county area, screening mammography essentially came to a halt from the latter part of March to mid-May 2020. When imaging centers began scheduling again in May women were slow to take advantage of this in spite of the precautions and protocols put into place by these facilities.
When the fear of the pandemic hit and women realized they could not get screening mammograms many felt reassured by the recommendation of the US Preventative Task Force. The Task force recommends screening mammography every two years for women with an average risk of breast cancer. Many women thought they could skip a year.
Delays in diagnosis then are not just two to three months. We could be dealing with delays of one to two years.
Because some breast cancers can advance rapidly, months without detection could mean fewer treatment options and a whole year or more could lead to a greater chance of death.
The women who detected an abnormality in their breast just before and during the height of the pandemic were faced with several problems. First was the fear of the possibility of cancer and the corona virus together. Second their access to care was limited. Primary doctors and gynecological offices were closed or operating in a very limited way so they had difficulty getting referrals. Imaging centers were open for diagnostic imaging studies but many people did not realize this.
As we emerge from hopefully the worst of the pandemic a new difficulty is faced. Many women in our community are employed in the service industries. They have lost their jobs and some no longer have health insurance. This is yet another reason why we have not seen the rebound in screenings we would expect.
Here at the Women’s Imaging Center at Saint Michael’s, we have a spacious waiting area and follow strict safety protocols. We are far away from the Emergency Room and inpatient floors that you believe may put you at risk.
At this time we encourage women to put their fears aside and venture out now to get their screening mammogram.
Don’t allow yourself to be counted as one of the negative Breast Cancer statistics in 2020.
Dr. Nadine Pappas is a breast surgeon at Saint Michael’s Medical Center.