Experts: Don't delay your mammogram amid the pandemic

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, all nonessential medical procedures were put on hold, including potentially lifesaving cancer screenings.

Pandemic-related pauses of breast cancer screenings could result in more women dying from the disease, according to a study released Wednesday by the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer.

Dr. Elisa Port said that thousands of mammogram screenings were canceled across the Mount Sinai Health System, where she is chief of breast surgery and the director of the Dubin Breast Center in Manhattan.

"The dangers of delaying screenings are many. Number one, women who get mammograms are way more likely to get their breast cancer detected early, and that is associated with a higher cure rate," Port said.

Women who delay mammograms are far more likely to have larger tumors and need more aggressive treatment, she added.

"We showed that women who get mammograms are much less likely to need chemotherapy than women who don't have mammograms and therefore have their cancers detected at a larger size and a later stage

Screenings at the Dubin Center and most other medical facilities resumed this spring with rigorous virus protection measures in place.

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Any reservations that Paola Pena may have had about entering a hospital setting during a pandemic were completely put to rest.

"They screened me over the phone prior to coming in, once I got in even before approaching the front desk, they took my temperature, they screened me again," Pena said. 

Pena, 44, had been putting off her mammogram for four years. She was relieved to get a clean bill of health.

"You do your own breast exam at home and if you don't really feel anything," Pena said. "You feel comfortable enough just saying, 'Oh I'll do it next year or next month or next week.'"

Experts say that now is the time to get screened while COVID-19 rates remain low.