MURRAY – The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic caused regular cancer screenings to decrease in the United States, with many elective procedures being put on hold to conserve medical resources and help prevent the spread of the virus. Fear of contracting COVID-19 in health care settings also dissuaded many patients from pursuing screenings.

As the number of patients being screened for cancer declined, health experts also saw a steep drop in cancer diagnoses in the United States between the start of the pandemic in March 2020 and June 2020.

“We want to ease the level of fear about scheduling your mammogram,” siad Joy Nolcox, RN, BSN, Cancer Program coordinator. “We have put in place procedures including restricting the number of exams each day, providing a mask, social distancing, and our healthcare providers are still screening staff temperatures, wearing protective gear, and disinfecting surfaces between patients.”

In an effort to discover new incidences of breast cancer as early as possible, oncology experts are recommending that patients schedule overdue mammography screenings, as restrictions begin to lift nationwide. The American Cancer Society (ACS) is urging patients who are not exhibiting signs and symptoms of cancer to return to regular screenings as soon as it is safe to do so. Individuals who do show signs or symptoms of cancer, and those with additional factors that place them in high-risk groups, should immediately consult a health care provider for screening guidance.

According to the ACS, a patient’s decision to be screened for cancer depends on a variety of factors. These include their risk of getting a certain type of cancer, the amount of time since their last screening for that cancer, the prevalence of COVID-19 in their community, their age, and their overall health.

ACS says that women between 40 and 45 have the option to start screening. Those 45 to 54 should get yearly mammograms and the ACS recommends annual mammogram screening at least through age 54 for women of average risk. Starting at age 55, women can choose to continue to be screened annually for breast cancer or choose biannual screening by mammography, according to ACS guidelines. Screening should continue after 54 years of age as long as a woman remains in good health with a life expectancy of at least 10 more years.

Talk to your healthcare provider today and schedule your 3D mammogram. For more information, call 270-762-1100.