Did you miss your scheduled mammogram this year when COVID-19 hit and hospitals around the country were forced to postpone all routine screening imaging studies?
If you missed your mammogram, it’s time to take action.
Recent surveys identified a major dip in cancer screenings since the novel coronavirus outbreak, with one report noting breast cancer and cervical cancer screenings dropping 94% in March.
If you missed your mammogram during the shutdown and haven’t rescheduled your appointment, now is the time to do so as October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month serves as a reminder about the importance of getting screened.
Baystate Health began routine screening mammography once again in June, yet some women still have not rescheduled their mammograms, some out of fear for catching COVID-19, noted Dr. Jennifer Hadro, interim medical co-director, Baystate Breast and Wellness Center.
Delaying Medical Appointments Can Be Dangerous
“Delaying a visit to the hospital can be dangerous to your health. Mammograms can reveal problems before you have symptoms and can detect breast cancer when it’s small and easiest to treat,” said Dr. Hadro. She noted Baystate is taking detailed measures to keep patients safe when visiting the hospital.
The protocols in place include:
- Requiring masks for patients and visitors
- Rigorously cleaning our hospitals and clinics
- Following stringent infection control guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- Screening for COVID-19 symptoms
- Providing caregivers with essential PPE
- Practicing social distancing
The Benefits of 3D Mammography
Baystate’s highly-trained team of radiology experts use the latest digital equipment, including newer 3D mammography, referred to as digital breast tomosynthesis, to perform more than 60,000 mammograms a year.
As opposed to 2D mammograms, 3D mammograms take multiple images or "slices" of the breast from different angles to create a three-dimensional picture of the breast. The "slices" can reduce images with overlapping breast tissue and give doctors a clearer image of the breast tissue.
“Using 3D mammography has several benefits. Studies show that 3D can significantly decrease the number of false positives, meaning fewer patients are called back for additional imaging. In addition, 3D mammography has been shown in studies to increase the number of breast cancers detected at screening,” said Dr. Hadro, who noted most insurances will now cover 3D screening.
If you’ve never had a mammogram, Dr. Hadro recommends talking with your doctor to determine when it is right for you to begin screening.
When should you start getting mammograms?
Most women should start screening mammograms at age 40.
If you are at high risk due to family or personal history, your doctor may recommend that you begin regular screenings before age 40. Once you begin, you should expect to have a mammogram at least every one to two years.
What are the signs of breast cancer?
Possible signs and symptoms of breast cancer that could indicate a need for evaluation by a doctor include:
- New lump in the breast or underarm
- Irritation or dimpling of breast skin
- Redness or flat skin in the nipple area of the breast
- Pulling in of the nipple
- Nipple discharge other than breast milk that is spontaneous (not occurring with self-examination), including blood
- Any change in the size or the shape of your breast
Make an Appointment
After talking with your doctor about screening, you can make an appointment for a mammogram at one of Baystate Health’s several mammography locations across western Massachusetts and northern Connecticut by filling out a form online.
Learn More About Breast Care and Wellness