Breast cancer strikes approximately one in eight women. It is the second most common cancer in American women; more than 42,000 U.S. breast cancer deaths are projected in 2020.
Medical officials say early detection and treatment are crucial in combatting this deadly disease.
“Cancer screenings find cancer early, often when there are no symptoms,” said Dr. Nilesh Vora, medical director at MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute, part of the Long Beach Medical Center. “The earlier a cancer is found, the more effective treatments may be. Preventative cancer screenings are critical to your overall health.”
According to Dr. Angela Sie, medical director of breast imaging at MemorialCare Breast Center, “the smallest, most curable cancers are found through mammograms.”
Unfortunately, COVID-19 has appeared to have caused mammogram screenings to drop dramatically this year. During the early days of the pandemic, many medical facilities postponed non-urgent procedures. But even when facilities implemented safety protocols and encouraged patients to return, the number of mammograms remained low. In July, Epic Health Research Network published a study showing a 63% decline in breast cancer screenings, as compared to the historical average.
“That study found that in the U.S. between March 15 and June 16, 285,000 breast, 95,000 colon, and 40,000 cervical cancer exams were missed,” Vora said. “While those numbers recently have begun to rise, people still aren’t getting regular cancer screenings at the same rate as previous years.”
As part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, MemorialCare Long Beach Medical Center conducted a ceremony last Thursday, Oct. 15. Seventy-five employees in pink shirts and masks stood (physically distant) in the shape of a breast cancer awareness ribbon as a reminder that “Hope Lives Here.” Center officials seek to encourage women to get annual mammograms beginning at the age of 40, a release said.
Various safety measures are now in place for mammograms at MemorialCare. Patients are screened before they can enter the facility and masks are required. Waiting room chairs have been reconfigured to create social distance and non-essential visitors are no longer allowed. Appointments are staggered to allow time for special cleaning procedures between patients.
“We are doing our best to keep staff and patients safe,” Sie said. “It is extremely low risk to come in for an exam.”
“It’s easy to come here because I feel safe here,” MemorialCare patient Jerilyn Crain said. “They have all of the processes in place.”
Sie said the center has expanded operations to help accommodate the backlog of missed mammograms. Screenings are being offered at both the Todd Cancer Institute and the Los Alamitos satellite office. In addition to weekday slots, Saturday appointments are also available.
MemorialCare’s Todd Cancer Institute is at 2810 Long Beach Blvd. The Breast Center phone number is (562) 933-7880. For online help, go to www.memorialcare.org/services/breast-care.