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America is facing a breast cancer screening crisis

During the pandemic, when we were all working on social distancing and keeping ourselves safe, many Americans put off doctor’s appointments that focused on preventative health care. According to the CDC, the number of breast cancer screenings in their program for low-income women declined by 87% during April 2020 compared to the previous 5-year averages for that month. It’s well known that breast cancer survival outcomes increase when the cancer is detected as early as possible, so this drop in screenings could lead to poorer health outcomes for those who are ultimately diagnosed when they’re already experiencing health inequities.

“This study highlights a decline in cancer screening among women of racial and ethnic minority groups with low incomes when their access to medical services decreased at the beginning of the pandemic, said Amy DeGroff, PhD, MPH, CDC health scientist and lead author in a CDC press release. “They reinforce the need to safely maintain routine health care services during the pandemic, especially when the health care environment meets COVID-19 safety guidelines.”

When the pandemic ended, the healthcare industry noticed two large problems: patients returned to in-person screenings in large numbers, creating a bottleneck, and those who didn’t return were facing financial hardships due to the pandemic and couldn’t afford a mammogram.

We have some history to draw on to look at what the effects of this problem will be … we know that people in low-income populations who are uninsured or only partially insured tend to have lower breast cancer screening rates and higher breast cancer mortality rates.

Simply put, they’re being diagnosed too late. America’s projected death rate of breast cancer is estimated to increase by 10% due to lower screenings, and this was the first time it was projected to increase since 2007.

What you can do to help:

  • Schedule your mammogram and don’t cancel it. If you’re a woman who is 40+, you should be getting screened once a year.

  • Make a point of sharing that you’ve scheduled your appointment with your social circle to encourage them to do the same.

  • Send this post with the people in your life who haven’t been screened. Remember breast cancer doesn’t just effect women! Men can get it too!

  • Donate to Panhandle Breast Health to help us provide free mammograms to the Texas Panhandle.

PBH provides screening and/or diagnostic mammograms, ultrasounds, and biopsies at no cost for medically uninsured women aged 40 and over whose income is no more than 400 percent of the federal poverty level. Other individuals may qualify with a physician’s referral. PBH partners with Haven Health Clinic for clinical breast exams and physician’s referrals. PBH contracts with BSA Harrington Breast Center for screening services. Ask them about their Mobile Mammography availability.

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