YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The pandemic has left some people nervous to enter hospitals and medical centers. With October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, First News has learned that it has deterred many from getting breast cancer screenings.
“Screening mammography is just so important, and the reason we screen people is because cancers are typically not felt and don’t have any symptoms,” said Dr. Alexis Smith with Joanie Abdu Comprehensive Breast Care Center in Youngstown.
Smith says most women feel perfectly fine when they’re diagnosed, but by the time they start to see symptoms, it’s normally too late. Some symptoms can include lumps, redness and discharge.
Smith also says it’s common for people to put off breast cancer screenings for a variety of reasons, and that’s only been increased by the pandemic, but the earlier you can get in, the better.
Some women may put off screenings due to denial or fear or even concerns of COVID-19 exposure, Smith says. This can lead to the cancer growing to a more aggressive form than it would have had they gotten screened earlier.
“We don’t want you to worry about that as much as getting your screening because you could have cancer and that could risk your life just as much as COVID could,” Smith said.
The pandemic has prevented many women from getting screened, but Smith says they’re encouraged that they continue to see more and more women come in for annual screenings.
She also notes they are taking precautions to make people feel safe to come in for mammograms. Masks are required, tools and machines are sanitized frequently and social distancing is enforced.
“We actually had to shut down screening mammograms all across the country last year for a short period of time for several months and we definitely had people come in once we opened up again, but we’re definitely down compared to what we would have been without the pandemic,” Smith said.
One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.
Smith recommends starting to get annual mammograms at the age of 40 if you’re of average risk. Anyone at high risk should start screening even earlier.