The Importance of Keeping Up With Mammograms During Covid: Don’t Delay, Schedule Your Yearly Screening

Woman Physician Talking With Her Patient

The full-fledged impacts of COVID across all aspects of health still remain to be seen. Cancer experts, however, have expressed concerns over the potential number of women who delayed breast cancer screenings and mammograms due to covid-related closures or backlogs. 

As experts point out, cancer screenings are an integral part of cancer prevention and treatment, and the numbers seem to suggest that there might have been a rise in late diagnoses in the last few years. Let’s look at some of the recent numbers and revisit the importance of breast cancer screenings and mammograms. 

Current Data on Breast Cancer Screening Delays

On January 30th, 2021, the CDC put out a press release detailing the decline in breast cancer screenings. The release stated that the number of cancer screenings test women received through the CDC’s National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program had gone down by 87% for breast cancer. 

These low numbers can lead to delayed diagnoses and health disparities among women already experiencing poor health outcomes. In November of 2021, the National Cancer Institute published a study projecting breast cancer mortality based on current data and simulation modeling due to the delay in screenings. 

The simulation used modeling that modeled reductions in mammography screening and other parameters to calculate mortality rates. The models projected that by 2030, for example, about 950 cumulative excess breast cancer deaths are related or attributed to reduced screening. The models included 1314 deaths associated with a delayed diagnosis of symptomatic cases. 

In the end, according to the projections, the pandemic shutdowns and backlogs will have a small long-term cumulative effect on deaths due to breast cancer. Health practitioners are urging people to quickly return to their scheduled screenings, so as not to delay any potential diagnosis. 

Why is Your Yearly Mammogram Important?

Many patients who’ve canceled their scheduled mammogram appointment didn’t think much of waiting until next year to get the check-up. This is precisely what health experts are cautioning against. If you did not have your yearly exam, try to schedule it as soon as possible to be on the safe side. 

And why is this important?

According to data presented at the 2019 Radiological Society of North America Annual Meeting, breast cancers found by yearly mammograms are smaller and in less-advanced stages than those with screenings found with mammograms performed every 2 years. 

The researchers in this study forced in on imaging records at Michigan Medicine and identified 232 women (ages 40 to 48) that were diagnosed in 2016 and 2017. These women all had annual or every-other-year mammograms. Then, the researchers compared the tumor characteristics between the women having annual and those having the mammograms every 2 years. 

The research concluded that 24% of women who had yearly mammograms were diagnosed with stage II, III, or IV breast cancer, as compared to the 44% of women diagnosed that received the every-other-year screening. 

Breast Cancer Numbers Compared to Other Cancers

Cancer experts across all fields are concerned about missed exams and delayed diagnoses. The President’s Cancer Panel released a report that posited the possibility of an uptick in cancer-related deaths in the near future due to gaps in screenings. Yet, according to data, there have been no statistical spikes in the numbers of patients for colon cancer, and IV diagnoses for all cancers. 

The research, however, showed differences in breast cancer. In 2019, 128 patients presented a stage I breast cancer diagnosis compared to 116 in 2020. This could mean a lag in early-stage diagnoses. 

The Cancer Action Network conducted a survey that showed that active treatment delays are on the rise. The survey showed that 20 to 25% of people reported delaying their imaging services due to covid-19. 

Don’t Delay Your Yearly Breast Cancer Screening

We’ve written before about the importance of yearly mammograms, but the numbers emerging after covid continue to stress the matter. Missed appointments, canceled appointments, backlogged patients, etc., are all a cause for concern. Health care providers are then urging women who delayed their screening to scheduling as soon as possible. 

For women concerned about visiting health care facilities during the pandemic, they can feel comfortable that clinics and facilities have gotten quite efficient at cleaning protocols and maintaining safe environments by establishing and enforcing strict rules around masking, social distancing, and disinfecting. 

Learn More About Available Mammography Services in Your Area

Today’s breast imaging is more effective at detecting early malignancies, and with early diagnosis comes a better prognosis. This is the underlying message of health experts and cancer activists looking to spread awareness of the risks of delayed screenings. 

Want to learn more and get information about mammograms? Call us at Professional Radiology today. Our state-of-the-art facilities and trained staff provide unmatched services for patients in the El Paso region. 

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