The impacts of COVID-19 on healthcare continue to evolve. As radiologists, we face unique opportunities — and challenges — as we work to prioritize safe and quality patient care while we navigate this pandemic.
At the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, most non-emergent healthcare was halted — including cancer screening. Unfortunately, cancer incidence does not stop with the pandemic. For some patients, skipping or postponing screening now could mean a delayed diagnosis, an increased cancer burden, and/or worse outcomes in the future.
It is estimated that more than 35,000 breast cancer diagnoses could be delayed and 5,200 more women may die in the U.S. over the next decade as a result of the spring to summer pause in screening due to COVID-19.1 American women were smart to “play it safe” during earliest phase of the pandemic — but now for women ages 40 and older, “playing it safe” means contacting their doctors about scheduling their yearly mammograms.
While we help our practices recover from the CDC-recommended shutdown, it is crucial that we also help our referring clinicians reconnect with women ages 40 and older and encourage them to schedule yearly mammograms postponed by the pandemic. Women ages 40 and older should weigh their individual risk, ask providers about their COVID-19 safety protocols prior to the appointment, follow staff instructions, and take common sense precautions during the visit (learn more). Not scheduling a mammogram now can allow breast cancers to advance — becoming less treatable and more deadly.
It is up to us, as radiologists, to to support the lifesaving benefits of screening mammography. We must act together to help our mammography patients return to care.