Get Back to Cancer Screening

December 27, 2021
Patient receiving mammography services at Penrose Hospital.

If your health care has taken a back seat due to the pandemic, you are not alone. Delayed treatment and postponed appointments have become the norm as our attention has turned to virus concerns. That’s especially true when it comes to preventive care like regular mammogram screening. But getting your health care back on track can literally be lifesaving.

“So many women are used to scheduling their breast cancer screening in the same month each year. If they missed their mammogram due to the pandemic shut-down or other concerns, it’s time to reschedule,” explains Ellen Buchannan, RN, MSN, nurse navigator with Centura Health. “Don’t wait until your screening month comes back around to get checked.”

Importance of regular screening

Postponing regular health screenings due to virus concerns is taking a toll. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, regular mammogram screening was down more than 80 percent during the height of the pandemic. As a result of these delays, studies show that more women are being diagnosed with breast cancer at later stages.

“Breast cancers are not all the same. Some are very aggressive and can grow rapidly between appointments. That’s why skipping screening or waiting to get a suspicious lump checked can be so harmful,” says Buchannan. “Remember, the longer cancer has time to grow, the more invasive the treatment may be and less favorable the outcome. So many women diagnosed with breast cancer regret not coming in earlier.”

The same trend of more advanced cancer diagnoses due to delayed screening is true in other areas as well, including colonoscopy screening for colon cancer.

“The uptick in advanced cancer is real,” says Buchannan. “Preventive health is something we all need to reprioritize.”

Easing the fear

For some, postponing routine health care is not a result of scheduling issues, but rather a fear of going to a health care facility during the pandemic. However, when weighing your risks, it’s important to recognize the lifesaving importance of cancer screening and trust your health care provider. Centura Health has continued to provide safe mammogram screening options for women throughout the pandemic.

“Every single associate within the Centura Health system – from the receptionist to the mammogram technologist – is vaccinated and wearing a mask,” assures Buchannan. “We care about your health and safety and make it our priority.”

Scheduling considerations

Not sure when you had your last mammogram screening? Check with your doctor. If it has been more than a year, schedule your next screening. But when doing so, consider the timing of your last COVID-19 vaccination or booster shot.

“Vaccination of any kind can cause a normal, temporary enlargement of the lymph nodes. If these enlarged lymph nodes are picked up on a mammogram screening, it could result in an abnormal finding,” explains Buchannan. “Wait six weeks after your last vaccination or booster shot to schedule a mammogram. But don’t delay. Remember, when it comes to cancer early detection is key.”