Doctors around the country are beginning to see more patients with late-stage cancers and many believe it’s due to delayed screenings during the pandemic. While data is still being collected, medical professionals have noticed a trend.
A recent study published in JAMA Oncology found that in the U.S. there were nearly 10 million fewer screenings for breast, colorectal, and prostate cancers. When these cancers are caught early during screenings there is a better chance treatment will work.
“Regular screening mammograms for women is why we have seen the rate of breast cancer deaths drop considerably in the last 30 years,” said Dr. Brett Parkinson, medical director of Intermountain Healthcare’s Breast Care Center. “I worry about the impact we could see if women put those screenings off.”
During the initial lockdowns of the pandemic, regular screening mammograms were suspended at Intermountain Healthcare. They soon resumed with safety measures in place for patients, and the number of mammograms ended up higher than the same period in 2019.
Peggy Huffaker of Salt Lake City went into surgery 10 days after finding out the lump she discovered was breast cancer. “I was shocked. Completely shocked. There is no breast cancer in my family,” Huffaker said. She was vigilant and was lucky with her timing right before the pandemic hit. Parkinson says because of the pandemic many women have delayed their breast cancer screenings which could mean a delay in a cancer diagnosis and more advanced stages of cancer. Huffaker says what ever you do, do not delay your health screenings. “Because you are valuable. You have loved ones who need you and we need you here,” Huffaker said. Huffaker says because she didn’t delay, her aggressive cancer didn’t stand a chance. She now can enjoy fun with her grandchildren and celebrate her 50th wedding anniversary with her husband.
In the United States, there is a 1 in 8 chance a woman will be diagnosed with breast cancer which is the second leading cause of cancer-related death among women. However, Utah’s rate of women who undergo an annual mammogram screening is one of the lowest in the nation.
Women 40 and older should be doing an annual screening mammogram to check for breast cancer. Some women may need to start those screenings earlier if they have a history of breast cancer in their immediate family.
Dr. Parkinson hopes women will take a short amount of time to focus on their health and receive their mammograms.
“I know it can be hard for women to focus on their health while they’re taking care of family and have a lot on their plate, but we want women to look out for their health so they can be there for the ones they love,” said Dr. Parkinson.
To schedule a mammogram, call 801-507-7840, or visit the Intermountain Healthcare website.