Don’t let fear of COVID-19 keep you from your mammo

The Miles of Hope Breast Cancer Foundation and Nuvance Health joined forces and held what we think was an especially important online roundtable discussion on Monday, Jan. 24. It was, not surprisingly, focused on breast cancer awareness and the importance of women continuing to get mammograms, even as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to commandeer our lives as if it’s a military general taking control of his adversary’s troops after battle.

And make no mistake: This is a war, of sorts, as women must take their health care into their own hands and make sure they are following through and following up on all of the annual tests they need to stay healthy. That includes mammograms.

As readers can learn from reporter Kaitlin Lyle’s article Breast cancer roundtable tells tales of survivorship in the Harlem Valley, patients cannot catch COVID-19 from mammography equipment.

Dr. Lisa Curcio is director of breast surgical oncology for the Northern Dutchess Hospital Breast Program and a breast cancer survivor herself. She was one of the panelists who spoke at last week’s online presentation. She explained why the fear of catching COVID from a mammogram is unfounded.

“I think what we saw during the early stages of the pandemic is a lot of people were fearful going for their mammograms and so they delayed,” said the doctor.

The result, sadly, was that the medical community began to see more and more women being diagnosed with late stage breast cancer, which is more difficult to treat and more often impossible to cure.

Dr. Curcio added, “I think that a lot of the data that COVID-19 could be obtained by actually getting your mammogram and being exposed to the mammogram machine has been debunked and I think the risks are very, very minimal or non-existent, and so we encourage people not to delay their screening just because of the pandemic.”

In other words, don’t let your fear of dying from one disease cause you to die from another.

The three doctors at the roundtable, along with New York State Senator Sue Serino (R-41), another breast cancer survivor, and moderator Brian Powers, who is the chairman  of the board of Miles of Hope, spoke in length about the many risk factors both women and men should be on the lookout for when it comes to breast cancer awareness.

They spoke about what it’s like to get a breast cancer diagnosis. There’s not only the physical reality to deal with, there’s the emotional pain one must confront.

The panelists also discussed the different treatments available these days for those diagnosed with breast cancer. They spoke about what it’s like to go through treatment and how to mentally and emotionally process making one’s way through that difficult journey.

Then, they talked about what comes after treatment, which the doctors termed “survivorship.”

Survivorship focuses on post-treatment, and the patient doing all she or he must do to make sure health is maintained and the disease never resurfaces.

As chief of the Nuvance Health Breast Surgical Oncology and Breast Program, Dr. Susan Boolbol said, “there is a difference between being alive and living, and we want everyone back to living.”

To view the roundtable, go to the Nuvance Health Facebook page; it’s worth watching.

And if you’re due for a mammogram, which is recommended annually for women age 40 and older, please make sure to make an appointment right away. Some things can’t wait, even in a pandemic — this is one of them.

Also, make sure to do breast self-exams regularly to check for any lumps or irregularities. Ask your OB-GYN how to do self-exams if you need assistance or look for instructions on a reputable medical website online.

For more information on the Miles of Hope Breast Cancer Foundation, which is a fabulous and incredibly helpful organization that was established in 2004 to fund support services for people affected by breast cancer in the Hudson Valley, go to www.milesofhope.org.

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