The total number of breast cancer screenings across the country was 87% lower in April 2020 than in the previous five Aprils, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Now, in 2021, doctors are urging women to get back into their routine testing, because it could save their lives.
Pam Cook chose not to skip out on her annual mammogram. She went to her appointment Oct. 16, 2020, and just a few days later, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Fortunately, doctors had caught it early.
"When I ended up going to the surgeon, he said, 'I can barely feel this,'" Cook said. "So, had I not had that mammogram, it could have been years, had I not come, how aggressive it could have spread. The mammogram saved my life."
At the Huntsville Hospital Breast Cancer, routine breast cancer screenings were paused for six weeks in 2020. However, Dr. Libby Shadinger said a lot of women were either nervous about Covid-19 or simply forgot to reschedule their screenings.
"We ... noticed numbers are lagging a little bit," she said. "We also really noticed that patients have forgotten how long it's been since their mammograms."
Shadinger said some studies suggest these screening delays and lack of screenings will result in thousands more deaths from breast cancer over the next 10 years.
"We have seen a little bit more late stage, and the stories are very similar," Shadinger said. "So, we have had a few of those more tragic and later-stage pickups."
That's why Shadinger and Cook urge women not to avoid this screening.
"Don't put it off," Cook said. "Like I said, it can save my life, and it can save someone else's, too."