Doctors: Don't delay breast cancer screening due to pandemic

Geri Barish is pleading with people not to wait when it comes to getting screened for breast cancer. The five-time cancer survivor herself and executive director of Hewlett House has seen patients go from Stage 1 to Stage 3 way too quickly and believes there's no time to waste when it comes to your health.

"Don't put the lid on it and say I'll get back to it because you may not have that chance," Barish said. 

Over a third of adults in the United States failed to get routine cancer screenings due to fears related to the COVID-19 pandemic over the past year and a half, according to research shared by the American Cancer Society.

And the National Cancer Institute predicts that over the next 10 years, nearly 10,000 breast and colorectal cancer deaths will be because of pandemic-related delays in cancer screening and treatment.

"It takes 10 years for a tumor to become palpable," Barish said. "How do you know what has been happening?"

Women who have mammograms reduce their risk of dying from breast cancer by at least 40%, according to doctors at Northwell Health.

Dr. Nina Vincoff, the chief of breast imaging for Northwell Health, believes early detection saves lives and that means going for a mammogram each year after age 40 — or even earlier if you have a family history of breast cancer.

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"For the people who paused having mammography, it's important to return to care," she said. "The later you come, the greater the chances we're going to find a cancer that's larger and potentially more difficult to treat." 

Vincoff said the machinery is cleaned after every mammogram.

"Our staff wear masks, the other patients wear masks, our staff has been vaccinated," she said. "So there's nothing to fear about returning to have your mammogram at this time."

Early detection is what Barish credits for saving her life.

"Don't wait," she said.