Sarah M. Friedewald, MD, FACR, Communications Chair of the American College of Radiology® (ACR®) Breast Imaging Commission, and Vice Chair for Women’s Imaging and Chief of Breast Imaging in the Department of Radiology at Northwestern Medicine, contributed this piece.
Former NBC Today Show anchor Katie Couric recently announced that she has breast cancer. She lamented that she had not had a mammogram since 2020 and urged others who had perhaps forgotten or put off screening due to the pandemic to get checked. There is no better time than National Breast Cancer Awareness Month to remind our patients to do the same.
World Health Organization experts say the end of the COVID-19 pandemic is in sight, however, the longstanding impacts continue to be felt within the field of radiology. According to the Journal of the American College of Radiology, breast cancer screening nationwide is still far less widespread than it was before the pandemic. Mammogram screenings, diagnostic mammograms, breast biopsies and breast cancer diagnosis are still down compared to pre-pandemic levels.
More than 35,000 breast cancer diagnoses may be delayed and an additional 5,200 women may die in the United States over the next decade as a result of screenings cancelled due to the pandemic. While it was important to play it safe by delaying non-urgent care during the pandemic, it’s time for women ages 40 and older to resume yearly mammography screenings.
Getting screened and having an open dialogue with their doctor is particularly important for minority women and transgender people. Minority women are 72% more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer and are 127% more likely to die of breast cancer before the age of 50 compared to white women. Transgender people of screening age should talk to their doctor about their breast cancer risk and whether or not screening is appropriate for them.
Radiology facilities continue to follow guidelines by the ACR, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to provide mammograms smartly and safely.
Encourage your patients to speak with their doctors about screening. The ACR offers several resources, including these patient-friendly imaging animation videos, which can be used to help patients participate in shared decision making with their physicians as it relates to their specific condition. In addition, the “Continue Mammography Care” toolkit offers free pamphlets, template letters, infographics and other helpful resources. Learn more via MammographySavesLives.org.Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, and join the discussion on Engage (login required).