SAN ANTONIO – The Alamo City welcomed thousands of visitors this week for the 44th San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.
Researchers, doctors and patients either joined the event in person or virtually at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center. The first day of the event focused on how COVID-19 has impacted breast cancer.
“It made it harder. It made it more frightening because I’m already thinking about the cancer,” said Sharon Anderson, 55, who has stage four breast cancer.
Anderson was diagnosed with the disease nine years ago, but admits treatment got more complicated when COVID-19 became an issue.
“I was in the middle of transitioning to a new treatment, where I would take a shot. I had to think about how COVID-19 would react with this new treatment,” she said.
On Tuesday, Anderson told KSAT she feels well. It’s one of the reasons she was in town for the SABCS.
Oncologist Debra Patt said COVID-19 has also caused a disturbing trend.
“Patients are not getting their regular screenings,” Patt said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, during April 2020 breast cancer screenings declined by 87% for women who received the tests through its National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program. Patt hopes women resume mammograms on schedule.
“That’s how we diagnose breast cancer early, before you can feel it. The natural consequence of patients forgoing screening is that they tend to present with later-stage cancers, and those can be associated with a higher risk of cancer death,” Patt said.
However, Dr. Patt also told KSAT that COVID-19 has had one positive effect on breast cancer patients.
“Things like telemedicine and electronic digital health care systems, and some of the things that we’ve implemented in our clinic in Texas Oncology are a robust use of telemedicine,” she said.
The SABCS continues through Friday.