Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center has seen a drop in breast cancer mammogram screenings this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to internal statistics, mammograms dropped by 47 percent in March, April and May this year when compared with last year. As of Oct. 14, Salmon Creek Medical Center was 550 mammograms behind where it was in October 2019, a 15 percent decrease overall.
Dr. Cory Donovan, a breast surgical oncologist with Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center, said the hospital did only 15 percent of its normal volume in April, and all of the exams were diagnostic mammograms, which are for people with a specific symptom or problem. Those are not regular checkups.
“That has caused us to be nervous,” Donovan said. “The implications of this are mortality. There’s a potential risk that we lose people because they missed their exams.”
Linda Green, a 59-year-old Salmon Creek resident, survived an aggressive form of breast cancer in large part because doctors were able to detect her breast cancer early.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Green was diagnosed with breast cancer at 56. She needed multiple surgeries and months of radiation and chemotherapy to beast the disease. Doctors told Green that if she had waited a few more months, her cancer could have threatened her life.
“Had I put it off, it could have had dire consequences,” Green said. “It’s really important to go in for these screenings, because they repercussions can be so much greater if you don’t go in.”
Green had a checkup in May, and said the hospital felt clean and safe. She understands why people might be afraid to visit doctors right now, but she said cancer checkups are still essential.
“There is a risk to going out of the house and there is a risk to going into the medical facility, but I also look at the calculated risk,” Green said. “Just do all the precautions. I would encourage people to go in.”
Donovan said screenings have returned to more normal volumes recently, but she is still concerned about people making up their missed exams.
The Epic Health Research Network published a study in May showing that 63 percent of breast exams were missed this year relative to historical averages. Also, 64 percent of colon exams were missed and 67 percent of cervical exams were missed. That amounts to an estimated 420,000 missed cancer exams.
“We are all looking for reasons to not do things,” Donovan said, “but screening is not really an optional thing. It’s not like COVID cured cancer.”