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COVID delays breast cancer screenings; doctors urge patients to get routine checkups

Doctors urge women to get routine breast cancer screenings
Posted at 8:36 AM, Mar 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-30 14:55:57-04

TULSA, Okla. — On National Doctors’ Day, healthcare professionals in Green Country are shedding light on breast cancer screenings, and the impact COVID-19 had on those seeking treatment.

“The fear of the unknown throughout medicine can be very anxiety-provoking,” Dr. Tara Wilson, a surgeon at Utica Park Clinic with Hillcrest, said.

The coronavirus pandemic has impacted the lives of all Oklahomans. The effects were even felt in primary healthcare, forcing many yearly checkups to be put on pause.

“We are seeing some cases where people delayed getting their screening mammograms or even seeking assistance because of something they were feeling out of fear of COVID,” Dr. Wilson said.

She adds in some cases, the predicament had a negative effect on those with breast cancer, making treatment more difficult than it would have been if caught sooner. She said she understands the fear of getting a breast cancer screening.

"Mammograms tend to provide women with a lot of anxiety anyway, and we lay a lot of things that have been going on in our lives over the last year, and that makes it even harder,” Dr. Wilson said.

However, she wants to urge her patients' prevention is key. Putting off a screening can be dangerous for those with more advanced forms of cancer.

"It tends to make treatment options; sometimes they have to be more aggressive, you know, the more advanced stages, sometimes can’t just be taken care of with surgery,” Dr. Wilson said.

The screening process for breast cancer is now more advanced than ever. Dr. Wilson said an early diagnosis could make all the difference.

“We led the city in introducing the 3D mammography, and it changes,” she said. “To put it more into a non-medical term, it is like watching a normal old television and then watching something in high definition.”

The advance in imaging with 3D mammography gives physicians the ability to better look at mammograms and significantly decrease false negatives, meaning when doctors don't see something that is there.

There’s even better news for those worried about the cost.

“The transition of insurance companies providing coverage for 3D mammography has completely switched, where it is very uncommon for me to see someone not be able to get that,” Wilson said.

Dr. Wilson said women with dense breasts should always ask for a 3D screening if one isn't being offered.

She said patients should discuss with their provider when they should get a screening because not everyone falls under the average risk. She said women should take into consideration their health and family history. However, the average woman should start screening for breast cancer at the age of 40 on a yearly basis.

“We would just encourage making sure that you do not forget your routine health maintenance, which includes your annual visits with your primary care and your vaccinations,” Wilson said.

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