Magnolia Minute – Pandemic Possibly Altering Patterns of Care

October 13, 2020 10:26 am Published by

By: Dr. Micah Monaghan, Radiation Oncologist at West Cancer Center/The Cancer Center at Magnolia

Currently, we are experiencing near record lows in patient volumes in our oncology department. That sounds great on the surface. Everyone would love for cancer doctors and IRS agents to be out of work! I fear the cause for lower patient numbers is not a lower cancer rate in our community.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected our community in every way possible. Postponement or cancellation of important primary care visits and cancer screening exams have surely been one of the negative effects. Screening mammography (mammograms done to find breast cancer before any sign or symptom) at Magnolia Regional Health Center during the 6 months of this pandemic is only two thirds of 2019 levels.

You are reading this number and asking yourself, “What’s the point, Doc?” Important cancer screening has not been performed during this unprecedented period. Delayed screening can lead to later diagnosis and possibly higher staged cancers at presentation. God willing, our community is on the down slope of the COVID-19 curve and getting back into normal routines. For many in our community, “normal routine” should include screening tests for cancer.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Screening mammography has repeatedly demonstrated benefits in women aged 50-69, including a reduction in death attributable to breast cancer. Women in certain groups of younger or older women are expected to benefit as well. The current National Comprehensive Cancer Network screening guidelines beginning at age 40 for average risk women is (1) to have an annual medical and family history review and clinical breast exam by a licensed provider, (2) to practice breast awareness [be familiar with your breasts and report any changes to your provider] and (3) to undergo annual screening mammogram.

Let prudence be your guide. As soon as you and your doctors believe it is advisable, visit your primary care providers or gynecologists and ask if you are due for breast cancer screening. Reschedule your missed annual mammogram if it has been postponed.

Dr. Micah Monaghan

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