Covid-19 causes potentially deadly drop in breast cancer screenings

Doctors suspect huge numbers of undiagnosed breast cancer due to the coronavirus

Covid-19 doesn’t stop cancer, but it may contribute to its growth.

That is the inadvertent finding of new breast cancer statistics that show a huge drop in mammogram screenings in 2020, prompting oncologists and women’s health experts to sound the alarm for those who have put off their mammogram during the pandemic.

University Health is reporting an 89% drop in mammogram screenings, and the implications of missing your appointment could be deadly.

Dr. Pamela Otto, lead interpreter of the University Health Breast Center, compiles statistics for the area. She says, “We’ve also seen a 50% decrease in the number of women diagnosed with breast cancer, meaning 50% of the women we would normally diagnose with breast cancer are sitting there with breast cancer and don’t know it.”

And since cancer tumors left alone rarely stop growing for anyone, it’s suspected that once detected, 2020′s breast cancer cases may be further advanced.

“The average doubling rate is about 180 days, doubling in size at 180, so I would say it’s concerning,” warned Dr. Otto. That’s a six-month doubling rate if you were due to have a mammogram in April and missed a potential diagnosis.

Many elective procedures were delayed to the medical shutdowns that were enacted to prepare hospitals for the intensive care cases that the novel coronavirus caused. But medical experts say it’s time to play catch up on your medical checkups and update your various screenings.

Dr. Otto worries that those on a two-year mammogram rotation may now be looking at a delay long enough to cause real worry.

“So those that were supposed to get it, maybe, you know, two years now are going to beginning in two and a half, three years, and that will change their prognosis,” she said.

It’s important to make your appointment as soon as possible. Mammogram mobile units are up and operating all over the city now, and clinics are open for appointments too.

To find an appointment near you, contact University Health System at https://www.universityhealthsystem.com/services/breast-health, or call 210-644-885.

RELATED: ‘Get that mammogram, don’t put it off,’ says breast cancer patient who waited to be screened

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