Mammogram screenings drop drastically during pandemic


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PEORIA (WEEK) — During breast cancer awareness month, doctors are bringing awareness to one concern surrounding breast cancer: Mammograms.

During the pandemic, Dr. Jessica Guingrich of OSF Healthcare said more women are putting off those key tests.

“Nationally, they probably dropped about 90% in the month of April,” Guingrich said.

“There has just been a lot of hesitancy from patients to come back in,” she added.

Guingrich said other stressors from the pandemic are likely contributing to the delays, but she hopes more people start back getting to yearly mammograms.

“Once somebody starts to hold off and say ‘Oh I’ll just do it in a few months or maybe I’ll just skip a year and do it next year,’ they’re less likely to come back in,” Guingrich said.

But Guingrich said the FDA is warning women who get the COVID vaccine and booster shot that they may cause swollen lymph nodes, which can be misinterpreted in a mammogram.

Health officials though said it’s harmless and temporary.

“That can actually happen with a lot of vaccines,” Guingrich said.

“We encourage women to not delay their mammogram because they get the COVID vaccine,” she continued.

Guingrich said mammogram delays can put women at risk of late detection and late diagnosis.

“What that means is that they might have to have a bigger surgery, or they might have to undergo a more aggressive treatment for their cancer,” Guingrich said. “The earlier we catch cancers the better.”

Executive Director of Susan G. Komen Memorial Gail Young said clinics have been following safety measures to make mammogram screenings safer during the pandemic and hopes women return to getting mammograms.

“We really need it to be breast cancer action month,” Young said.

“That awareness leads you to take action, that you get out, you get your screening,” she added.

OSF Healthcare Saint Francis Medical Center is hosting a one stop cancer screening event October 19 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. where patients can get a mammogram and other cancer screenings.

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