TAMPA BAY, Fla — As the pandemic stretches on, doctors in the Tampa Bay area stress to women the need for regular breast cancer screenings and not to put off a mammogram.
Rebecca Duurloo just turned 40-years-old this summer. She says she went in for her first routine mammogram and later got a call about some questionable spots.
“We did some more mammograms and ultrasounds, and then I had a biopsy because it was so questionable, and that’s when they found out that it was the cancer,” said Duurloo.
Duurloo was diagnosed with Stage 2B Invasive Ductal Carcinoma and is receiving treatment at Moffit Cancer Center. Duurloo explains she had no family history and has thought about what would’ve happened if she put her screening off.
“Almost every day, I’m telling people they need to get their mammograms because I’m like if I had waited any longer, then it could have been worse,” said Duurloo.
During the pandemic, health experts explain some women may have opted to wait. The CDC reported the total number of cancer screening tests received by women through its Early Detection Program declined by nearly 90 percent for breast cancer during April 2020, citing screening site closures and temporary service suspensions due to COVID-19 as potential factors.
“Coming in our practice, I’m seeing patients unfortunately not all early stage,” said Dr. Peter Blumencranz, a surgical oncologist at Morton Plant Hospital. “We haven’t done a real statistical analysis, but my sense of it anecdotally, is we’re seeing more patients with advanced disease, and they will volunteer, ‘Oh, I didn’t get my mammogram last year.”
For women at average risk for breast cancer, the American Cancer Society recommends women between 40 and 44 have the option to start screening with a mammogram every year, while women between 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year. It suggests women 55 and older can switch to every other year or continue with yearly mammograms.
If you’re at higher risk, health experts say you should consult with your doctor.
“We know that mammograms do not prevent breast cancer, that’s not the point. But the purpose of screening is early detection when it’s more treatable at an earlier stage, so you can expect a better outcome the earlier we catch it,” said Dr. Blumencranz.
Blumencranz explained facilities take the right steps to make it as safe as possible during the COVID-19 crisis, while reiterating women should not defer getting screened because of the pandemic.
“A delay in diagnosis could result in more advanced disease and require more significant treatment. So don’t put it off,” said Dr. Blumencranz.
Duurloo started chemo, the beginning of a long journey to beat breast cancer while reminding all women to be proactive and get checked.
“Don’t wait on anything because I had no symptoms, no nothing, and that’s just how they found it,” said Duurloo. “If I had waited and pushed mine off, then I don’t know where I’d be.”
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