Should you get a mammogram during COVID-19?
It can be tempting to postpone or skip your mammogram because of COVID-19, but will that put you at risk? Wendy Cornett, MD, said it is important to schedule a screening mammogram if you are over 40, or a diagnostic mammogram if you have found a problem. “Mammograms save lives, even during COVID-19. They detect cancer or precancer that can’t be found by a self-exam or by a doctor’s exam.” And when it comes to cancer, catching the disease early is key to successful treatment.
Dr. Cornett shared information and tips to help you decide on whether to proceed with your mammogram.
What is a screening mammogram?
A screening mammogram is an X-ray of the breast done in order to find shadows or calcium deposits made by cancer or precancer. Some benign things like cysts and fibroadenomas can also make shadows and calcium deposits. Screening mammograms are done for women with no known breast problems to detect breast cancer earlier than it would be found by a self-exam or doctor’s exam.
What is a diagnostic mammogram?
A diagnostic mammogram is an X-ray of the breast done in women who have found something worrisome like a breast lump, skin changes of the breast or fluid coming from the nipple. During a diagnostic mammogram, the radiologist will determine whether you need more X-rays or an ultrasound.
What should you consider when deciding to keep or postpone your mammogram?
Dr. Cornett said patients who are at higher risk for complications of COVID-19, such as those who are obese, elderly or medically frail, need to consider their risk of exposure to the virus if they keep their mammogram appointment.
“Patients who are at high risk for breast cancer also need to think of their cancer risk if they do not keep their appointment,” she said. “Obesity is also a risk factor for breast cancer.”
One in eight women will get breast cancer even if they have no risk factors other than being female.
What precautions are being taken to keep patients safe during their mammogram?
During the COVID-19 pandemic, strict sanitizing procedures are being performed. Upon entering the facility, patients are asked COVID-19 related questions and temperature checks are completed. Everyone is required to wear a mask and waiting rooms have open spaces between seats to avoid contact and promote social distancing. Overall, precautions are being taken to limit exposure during mammogram appointments, making it as safe as possible to have a mammogram during this pandemic.
The risk of exposure to COVID-19 is something you personally need to weigh, knowing your risk for any COVID complications and your risk for breast cancer. If you do find something worrisome in your breast, it is important to speak to your doctor immediately.
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