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Why doctors are urging women not to put off annual breast cancer screening

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Utah doctors continue to observe a marked decrease this cancer screening of all types, but especially for mammography or breast cancer screenings, since last year’s temporary pause in services due to the COVID pandemic.  

As new COVID-19 infections continue to go decrease in Utah, and vaccines become more widely available, doctors are urging people to schedule a cancer screening during this window of opportunity. 

Between March 15 and July 15, 2020, Intermountain Healthcare saw a 43 percent drop in mammography rates compared to the same period during the previous year. That was due to a 10-week pause in screenings during the early phase of the pandemic, when all non-urgent services were postponed.  

Screening rates improved from July to December 2020, when mammogram screening volumes increased over the same time the previous year. It was due in part to expanded hours at several locations, in addition to the opening of some clinics on nights and weekends.  

Dr. Brett Parkinson, medical director of Intermountain Healthcare’s Breast Care Center, says the uptick in screenings to finish the year was an encouraging sign. 

“It’s always great to see women putting their health first and being screened for breast cancer,” said Dr. Parkinson. “Breast cancer deaths have been declining for decades due to screening. We don’t want women to get out of the habit of annual screening.” 

The pause in screenings during the start of the pandemic has created a unique situation today. Mammograms are done annually, but there was a gap last year, creating increased availability for the rest of the spring and early summer.   

More concerning to physicians is the fact that Utah traditionally ranks poorly compared to other states in screening rates. Doctors encourage women 40 or older who have waited more than a year since their last mammogram, or who have never been screened, to take the opportunity to schedule their exam now. 

Intermountain caregivers continue to keep patients safe from COVID-19 through enhanced cleaning and social distancing measures.    

Many Intermountain mammography clinics and sites offer same-day walk-in appointments. An order is not required for a screening exam.  

Please call 801-507-7840 today to schedule your screening mammogram.   

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