Health Experts: Breast cancer screening still important during the pandemic

El Rio Health offering free mammograms for uninsured women
The coronavirus pandemic is having an effect on cancer patients undergoing treatment.
The coronavirus pandemic is having an effect on cancer patients undergoing treatment.(WAFB)
Published: Oct. 1, 2020 at 10:45 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The American Cancer Society is urging women to talk to their healthcare providers for the best plan to continue breast cancer screenings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The American Cancer Society says about 5,630 Arizonans will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year and an estimated 900 will die from the disease.

At the onset of the pandemic, elective medical procedures, including cancer screening, were largely put on hold to prioritize urgent needs and reduce the risk of the spread of COVID-19 in healthcare settings. One consequence of this has been a substantial decline in cancer screening.

Decisions about restarting screening depend on many factors and they may not be the same for every person. Letitia Thompson, Vice President of Cancer Control for the American Cancer Society, said it is important to reach out to your doctor about rescheduling any canceled or postponed screenings.

“Are you up to date on your screening? Review your family history with your provider and then ask them what are the measures they are taking to get you safely back in and save your own life, protect yourself," said Thompson.

Providers can discuss balancing the risks and benefits of being screened now or postponing for a later date, considering personal and family history, other risk factors, and the timing of the last screening test.

Thompson said there is another factor impacting patients now due to the pandemic.

“There are a lot of women who may be at greater risk now, not because of anything to do with their genetic history, but because of COVID-19, there’s a lot of unemployment and a lot of people who may have lost their healthcare benefits,” said Thompson. "So for those women, it’s not the barrier of COVID but the barrier of how they are going to get it paid.”

El Rio Health is offering free mammogram screenings for uninsured women in the month of October at three of their Tucson health centers.

To qualify, the patient must be uninsured, over 40 years old with no current breast problems (no pain, discharge, lump, etc.) and must not have had a mammogram within one year.

An appointment is required. Call (520) 670-3909 to schedule on the following days: October 7th, 14th, 21st, 28th.

You can find more resources through the Arizona Department of Health Services.

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