The COVID-19 pandemic has proven that nowhere you go is 100% safe, and there’s still a risk that you can catch the virus in any setting. But skipping an important cancer screening is risky, too. Delaying a mammogram for a month or two shouldn’t be a problem, but pushing it off for six months or waiting until next year allows a cancer that could have been caught early to progress.
If you are at high risk for breast cancer and felt a lump in one of your breasts, the chance of having breast cancer at an early stage likely outweighs the risk of catching COVID-19 while you’re at the screening. If you’re at average risk for breast cancer, but at high risk for complications from COVID-19, it’s probably okay to delay a mammogram appointment until it feels safer to go out, as long as you clear that with your doctor.
If you do choose to make an appointment, you should know visitors are no longer allowed at appointments with patients. Of course, there’s still the risk you’ll touch a surface with the virus or come in contact with someone who has it on your way to the office. To minimize that risk, follow the CDC’s guidelines. That includes avoiding public transportation, wearing a cloth mask to cover your nose and mouth, washing your hands as often as possible, and keeping your distance from anyone you pass by in the street or at the cancer center.
There are two different kinds of mammograms. “Screening” mammograms are for women who are not having any current breast problems. You may be able to delay your appointment. Discuss with your doctor.
The other kind of mammogram is considered “diagnostic,” which is for patients who are having a breast problem. If you are experiencing a new symptom, such as a lump, pain in one part of the breast, skin changes, or nipple discharge, you should talk to your doctor. In such cases, it may be advisable to have your testing as soon as possible. Call your physician to discuss. Additionally, if you have any signs of infection in the breast (such as redness, warmth, swelling, and pain) you should talk to your doctor right away.
If you are sick or think you may have been recently exposed to COVID, talk to your doctor. Your mammogram should wait until you have recovered, or your risk of becoming ill has passed. Taking into account all of these precautions, the risk of catching COVID-19 at a mammogram appointment is low, and the benefit of a breast cancer screening could vastly outweigh the risk. It’s important not to neglect other parts of your health in an effort to avoid coronavirus.
Be in the know, make informed decisions and do what you think is best for you!
“Make your health a priority…mind, body and soul.”