Doctors warn not to skip breast cancer screenings amid coronavirus concerns

Reporter: Veronica Marshall
Published: Updated:
Google says it has developed an artificial intelligence system that can detect the presence of breast cancer more accurately than doctors. (Credit: Shutterstock)
Credit: Shutterstock

Breast cancer is an important issue right now because people are skipping doctor’s appointments to avoid the coronavirus.

However, experts say putting off critical cancer screenings puts you at greater risk.
It started with a missed opportunity.

That why WINK News has teamed up with Making Strides Against Breast Cancer.

Talaya Dendy is a cancer survivor. When she went to the doctor, she showed her primary care physician a lump near her neck that concerned her, “And she said – don’t worry about it, it’s probably just a pulled muscle.”

That was the beginning of Dendy’s journey with cancer, only she didn’t know it yet.

One year later, she saw a new doctor. Dendy’s explained, “She looked at it and touched it and I could tell by her face that it was something major … I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma on April 8, 2011.”

Now, Dendy is a nine-year cancer survivor and thriver.

MORE: Donate to American Breast Cancer Society Making Strides Against Breast Cancer

But she still worries about its lasting impact on her health. “I can honestly say that I don’t think that my immune system is the same as it was prior to chemotherapy.”

That’s why when it came time to get her mammogram this year, she hesitated.

And she’s not alone.

In Lee County, the Department of Health says it has seen a drop in applicants for its breast screening program, and that trend it true nationally.

Between March 15, and June 16, about 285,000 breast exams were skipped, relative to the number of screenings that would be expected based on the historical average, according to a study published by Epic Health Research Network.

Experts say that’s a problem.

Dr. Jane Meisel, assistant professor in the Department of Hematology and Medical Oncology at Emory University School of Medicine said during a health conference on August 22, “We have to figure out a way to carry on and keep cancer care going – including screening, in the face of this pandemic.”

Meisel adds that delayed screenings and treatments mean worse outcomes, “They show up at my clinic four months later with a disease that’s more widespread than it needed to be.”

So, Dendy put her fears aside; “I was able to work through that. I’m so happy I went ahead and had my mammogram.”

And she hopes you can too.

If you can’t afford a screening, Lee County’s Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program is free.

It’s for women between the ages of 50-64, who don’t have health insurance. You can apply by calling (239)332-9535 or clicking here for more information.

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