Breast cancer is the second most common cancer diagnosis in women in the U.S., affecting 1 in 8 women in their lifetime. Yet, when found early, breast cancer is treatable and survivable. Preventative screening is one of the most effective ways to find cancer an earlier stage, however, precautionary measures due to COVID-19 have caused some extended delays. This may result in many cancer cases going undiagnosed or being diagnosed at a later stage when they are more difficult to treat.
A study by the Epic Health Research Network reports that between March 15 and June 16, 2020, 285,000 breast screenings were missed, representing a 63% drop over this same time last year1.
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, federal health officials urged the public to delay elective medical procedures and screenings to help facilities prepare for community transmission of COVID-192. This recommendation has since been lifted, but the earlier delay combined with public concern of infection may have led to the decline in cancer screenings.
Delayed screenings are now becoming a public health issue. It is important for women to continue getting their regular screenings, even in the midst of COVID-19. Most cancer is treatable if detected early, so we recommend that people get their screenings scheduled now that they’re available in Arizona.
Arizona Oncology recently endorsed the updated breast cancer screening recommendations from the American Society of Breast Surgeon (ASBrS), which take into greater account heredity and race-based risk factors.
The ASBrS guidelines depart from the American Cancer Society (ACS) and U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommendations for screenings starting at age 45 or older, which apply to women with average risk and are based on adverse effects thought to be tied to screening costs, the probability of inaccurate results, and unnecessary medical procedures.
The goal of the new guidelines is the customization of screening to the patient's estimated lifetime risk of breast cancer:
Women at average risk should begin mammography at age 40. This younger age aims to account for breast cancer outcome disparities noted among diverse populations in the U.S. The goal is to improve survival rates among women whose cancer might have otherwise been missed.
Women with a very strong family history or risk over 20% should start imaging at age 35. Women with a BRCA gene mutation or other germline mutation known to predispose to a high risk of breast cancer should have imaging starting at age 25.
While most health insurers will cover some recommended strategies such as risk assessment and 3-D mammograms before age 50, the ASBrS specifically did not restrict guidelines to currently covered procedures.
At Arizona Oncology, we want to stress how important breast cancer screenings are to a patient’s overall health. Early detection is the most effective way to prevent cancer death. Mammograms and other routine screenings are encouraged, as well as screenings and diagnostic tests for high-risk patients. In addition, we recommend that patients get screened if they have previously canceled their appointment.
Breast Program At Central Campus
6036 N. 19th Ave. Suite 202
Phoenix, AZ 85015
P: 602. 277.4868
Biltmore Cancer Center
2222 E. Highland Ave. Suite 400
Phoenix AZ, 85016
P: 602. 277.4868
6320 W. Union Hills Dr. Suite B1600 Glendale, AZ 85308
P: 602. 277.4868
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