texas oncology more breakthroughs. more victories
Some of our cancer centers are experiencing issues.  View More Important Notifications x

Three Things to Know Before You Cancel Your Mammogram

Publication: Austin Medical Times, Houston Medical TImes

More than six months into the COVID-19 pandemic, fears are growing about the long-term impact on cancer rates. Put simply, Americans are skipping their screenings and the potential consequences are a major concern of oncologists. The pandemic has made life infinitely more complex, but what hasn’t changed is the principle of cause and effect. How we take care of ourselves today will directly impact our future health.

The stakes are high for women, especially when it comes to breast health. According to the Health Care Cost Institute, mammograms fell 77% at the height of the pandemic and were still down 23% at the start of the summer. What’s more, data from the National Cancer Institute projects as many as 10,000 additional deaths during the next 10 years from breast and colorectal cancer alone as a direct result of failure to get screened during the pandemic.

While these statistics are concerning, there’s still time to reverse the trend and prioritize breast health. Mammograms can detect breast cancer in its earliest stages, often before women experience symptoms, and remain the single most important tool for prevention and early detection.

Don’t let fear of COVID-19 deter you from prioritizing your health. Consider the following key factors and do not cancel your mammogram.

Mammograms are the most reliable way to identify breast cancer early.

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), the size of a breast cancer and whether it has spread to other parts of the body are among the most important factors in predicting a woman’s outlook upon diagnosis. Mammograms are crucial to this process, and help doctors determine whether additional tests, such as biopsies, are required. The ACS reports that mammograms can detect changes in a woman’s breast that could indicate cancer years before physical symptoms develop.

Family health history may determine a woman’s risk for developing breast cancer.

Lifestyle-related factors, such as diet, alcohol consumption, and exercise are among the cancer risk factors women can influence by their habits and health behaviors. However, when it comes to breast cancer, there are other risk factors that are determined for you, such as family health history. Women with a first-degree relative, such as a mother, sister, or daughter, who had breast cancer before age 50 are considered higher risk of developing breast cancer. Genetic testing can help determine if a woman has a genetic disorder that may increase risk of breast cancer, like the BRCA gene.

Medical offices are taking extra safety precautions to conduct screenings safely during COVID-19.

Temperature screenings at the clinic door, face mask and social distancing requirements, visitor restrictions to reduce clinic traffic, are some of the safety measure clinics across the state have implemented to keep patients protected at screenings and appointments. If you’re nervous about an in-person visit, ask your doctor about a telemedicine appointment before you cancel your mammogram. Your doctor can advise you on the best time to get screened.

In a world that sometimes feels out of control, we are grounded in the things that are constant and expected – including the importance of cancer prevention. The Texas Cancer Registry estimates 18,478 new breast cancer cases with nearly 3,300 deaths in Texas in 2020.

I encourage women everywhere to advocate for their health with routine cancer screenings, even amid COVID-19. Together, we can fight breast cancer.

This article appeared in the November 2020 edition of: