Nationwide, there has been a dramatic and ominous drop in breast cancer screenings of up to 50 percent since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to widespread concern in the medical community that a consequent rise in breast cancer cases and deaths in the near future is inevitable.
“Across the country, women have not been getting their routine screening mammograms in 2020, due, in part, to patient anxiety about exposure to the virus,” says Tara L. Grahovac, M.D., a board-certified breast surgeon at St. Clair Hospital’s Breast Care Center. “At this point, no one knows what the full impact will be. The National Cancer Institute does prediction modeling, and they estimate that there will be an excess of 10,000 deaths from breast and colorectal cancer over the next 10 years as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Delayed screenings mean delayed diagnoses, and a greater likelihood of advanced cancer when it is finally diagnosed.
After the initial “lockdown” period in which elective procedures were cancelled in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, hospitals have made significant progress in providing a safe environment of care. Protective measures, including personal protective equipment, masks, hand washing and social distancing, and accelerated utilization of telemedicine, help protect patients from exposure to COVID-19.
“At St. Clair, we have made this transition with great care,” says Dr. Grahovac. “COVID-19 is a very serious virus, but we’ve been able to mitigate the threat with environmental control and strict safety measures. We advocate that people come in and get the vital screenings that they need. Screening mammograms save lives–they reduce breast cancer mortality by one third. Don’t wait until you have a mass in your breast.”
Breast cancer screenings include mammograms, breast ultrasounds and breast MRIs. Full imaging services are available at St. Clair.
To schedule an appointment at St. Clair Hospital’s Breast Care Center, please call 412.942.8150.