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Studies show thousands of women have skipped mammograms during the pandemic

Breast and cervical cancer screenings dropped 94% in March in the United States, according to...
Breast and cervical cancer screenings dropped 94% in March in the United States, according to one study.(FILE PHOTO)
Published: Mar. 10, 2021 at 8:28 AM CST
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(Editor’s note: This story was originally published October 2, 2020 at 1:19 PM CDT - Updated October 3 at 8:57 PM on wafb.com)

BATON ROUGE, La. (Great Health Divide) - Studies show thousands of women have skipped mammograms during the COVID-19 pandemic, and experts predict delays in breast cancer screenings and treatment could lead to thousands more deaths over the next decade. Hospitals and clinics around the world are now playing catch-up to screen women who may have postponed their regular exams.

One study shows that breast and cervical cancer screenings dropped 94% in March in the United States. In June, breast cancer screenings were still 29 percent below pre-COVID levels.

It’s a trend leaders have also noticed at Mary Bird Perkins – Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center.

“We did see a stark decrease in the number of people that were being screened, and a lot of that had to do with providers could really not provide screening for a few months,” explained Johnnay Benjamin, director of early detection and education.

Benjamin said the Cancer Center has ramped up screening efforts and has plenty of available appointments.

“If they were scheduled for March, April, or May, now is the time to reschedule those appointments,” she said. “We don’t want them to try to stay in that month and wait until next year. We’d rather them go ahead and reschedule now.”

The Cancer Center partners with Woman’s Hospital to offer mobile mammography across south Louisiana aboard a screening bus. You can find that schedule here.

“Some people have found that to be more comforting because they feel like it is a smaller space. There’s less contact with people and surfaces,” Benjamin said.

Maria Yiannopoulos was treated for breast cancer at Ochsner Cancer Center in Baton Rouge. Her stage three diagnosis could have easily progressed to stage four had she waited any longer.

“I happened to have had the luck of having COVID, and I was sent in to go get a lung scan, and I was meeting with my primary care physician, and she said, ‘Everyone is so scared to go. Just go in, get your mammogram done,’” Yiannopoulos said. “I am so grateful. It absolutely saved my life. Do not stay away from the hospitals. Do not stay away from having your mammogram done. It will save your life.”

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Great Health Divide is an initiative addressing health disparities in the Mississippi Delta and Appalachia funded in part by the Google News Initiative.

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