Breast Cancer Screenings During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Essential—and Safe
Many women have been faced with the decision of whether to skip or postpone routine mammograms during the current pandemic to avoid potential exposure to the coronavirus. It is important to know that when it comes to breast cancer screenings, staying home may actually be the bigger risk.
Breast cancer is one of the most treatable forms of cancer when caught early. And, screening tests play an integral role—detecting cancerous or even precancerous tissue in women with no other symptoms. In short, mammograms and other diagnostic techniques for breast cancer save lives—and it’s crucial to get them on time.
Delaying your screening by a month or two is likely OK, but you shouldn’t put the test off indefinitely, experts say. If you canceled a mammogram or avoided scheduling one this spring, get an appointment on the books now. If you’re due for a mammogram soon, you should still schedule it.
And don’t worry—you don’t need to wait months for an open slot. “We’re absolutely able to schedule women for both screenings and diagnostic tests right now,” said Catherine Tuite, MD, a breast radiologist at Fox Chase Cancer Center.
How we’re protecting our patients
Fox Chase is committed to keeping COVID-19 out of our center and providing the safest possible breast cancer screening experience for our patients. We’re taking strong protective actions, including:
- Screening every person (employees and patients) for COVID-19 symptoms upon entering the Center
- Requiring everyone within our walls to wear a mask at all times
- Testing all inpatients and all patients prior to surgery to ensure that they do not have undiagnosed asymptomatic COVID-19
- Spacing out mammogram appointments to allow time to thoroughly clean exam rooms and equipment after each patient visit/procedure and decrease the number of people in one place at any given time.
- Prohibiting visitors from accompanying patients during appointments which allows for us to promote physical distancing
We understand that simply seeing a list of safety measures might not be enough to make you feel comfortable. “If you want to get screened but are feeling anxious, give us a call so we can talk through your concerns,” Tuite said. You can also talk to your primary care provider or gynecologist to weigh the risks and benefits of screening now or delaying a little longer.
Scheduling your breast cancer screening
Now and always, Fox Chase offers state-of-the-art screening technology to catch more breast cancers early, when they’re often highly treatable. A radiologist physician specializing in breast cancer will review your test results, and results will be read shortly.
If you’re not sure whether you need to be screened for breast cancer, talk with your primary care provider. It is recommended that all women over the age of 25 undergo formal risk assessment for breast cancer.
If you’re found to be at average risk for breast cancer, you should undergo annual screenings beginning at age 40. These annual screenings should continue until your life expectancy is less than 10 years.
If you’re found to be at high risk for breast cancer, you should start getting an annual mammogram and MRI at age 30. Some women may be advised to begin MRI screenings sooner, depending on their risk factors.