Local doctors worry annual mammograms are being skipped: ‘It is a concern’

Local News

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — COVID-19 could be forcing people to delay getting screened for cancer. According to a recent survey released by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, two-thirds of Americans say their scheduled cancer screenings were delayed or skipped during the ongoing pandemic.

It’s recommended that women above 40 get a mammogram every single year. In October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a good reminder to check in with friends and make sure they’re scheduling one.

There’s no such thing as a socially distant cancer screening but VCU Health says a long list of safety protocols are in place inside their health care centers.

The key to surviving, doctor’s say, is finding the cancer early enough.

“And that’s what mammograms do is save lives,” said Dee Kannon, a three-time cancer survivor.

With love and support from her family and friends, The Chesterfield resident is now cancer-free, beating three types of cancer, including breast cancer.

“We’re still battling it,” she said. “Every day, women are being diagnosed right at this minute.”

Kannon said women should not let the chaotic year prevent them from their annual mammograms.

“I wish I could go and pick up people and take them,” she said. “You know, it is a worry.”

VCU Health radiologist Dr. Priti Shah, Director of Breast Imaging, said at least 90 percent of their screenings had to be postponed during the height of the pandemic.

“Nationwide, screenings overall are down,” she told 8News. “For colonoscopies, for pap smears, other wellness visits and it is a concern.”

She said roughly 85 to 90 percent of the people with appointments have rescheduled– but not all.

“My concern is that some patients are wondering since they’ve already delayed their mammogram for a few months, should they just go ahead and skip it for this year?” Dr. Shah said.

She added that women should go in for a screening as soon as possible, but acknowledges some people aren’t comfortable leaving the house to do so.

“Part of it is still anxiety,” she said.

COVID-19 safety measures are in place, however.

“We are ready, we are here for you, mammograms still save lives, we want to take care of you and we are committed to keeping you safe,” Dr. Shah said.

Some of those safety measures include having patients wait in their cars and remotely check-in, sanitizing common surfaces, verbal screenings, temperature checks and wearing masks and shields.

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