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Wear The Gown: Despite the pandemic, yearly mammograms are still needed

Skipping regular screenings is a bad idea for patients.

SAN ANTONIO — When the coronavirus pandemic began many people started putting off annual screenings out of fear of going to the doctor's office. But getting a mammogram screening for breast cancer is safe, and necessary every year, pandemic or not.

The American Cancer Society recommends all women over 40 get a yearly mammogram, or with a family history 10 years before an immediate family member was diagnosed or at 40, whichever comes first. And the pandemic should be no reason so put off a life-saving screening. 

"It's a bad idea to put off your screen just because we really want to get a good look at your breast tissue every year. That's why we perform screening mammograms annually because we want to catch things as early as possible," said Dr. Rachel Darling who is a diagnostic radiologist within the University Health System, and a Clinical Assistant Professor of Radiology specializing in breast imaging and intervention with UT Health San Antonio. She says they do the screenings annually to catch cancer early. Dr. Darling told us, "We have such good treatments now especially for breast cancer that it's really important to come annually."

One in eight women will develop breast cancer at some point in their life. It is the most common cancer diagnosed in women and the second leading cause of cancer deaths. On average in the U.S. a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer every two minutes. 

Dr. Darling says even with the pandemic, going to get that screening is safe. You just need to social distance and wear a mask. They'll do the rest. Dr. Darling said, "They are screened before they enter the building, asked a series of questions whether anyone in their household has tested positive for COVID, whether they're having any symptoms and then the temperature is also taken."

Their radiologists take precautions too. Dr. Darling added, "They are masked and most of them are in their protection or have a face shield in place because a part of the nature of a mammogram is that the tech really helps to position the patient so has to get very close to them."

Dr. Darling says if you're noticing something new in your breast tissue to talk to your primary care doctor or OB/GYN right away. 

For more information about family health call 210-358-3045. You can also find the rest of Wear The Gown stories, just go to WearTheGown.com.