COVID-19 significantly impacts on the number of breast cancer screenings during Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Medical Group, Keystone Radiology, says Covid-19 restrictions and fears around general health and safety have drastically reduced the number of women who came for breast cancer screening during October, which is dedicated to Breast Cancer Awareness month. Every October, the world celebrates this important event, where women are reminded to go for regular screening as part of efforts to ensure early detection and prevention of breast cancer. This month usually sees record numbers of women undergoing mammograms and other related screening procedures.
‘In the period leading up to Breast Cancer Awareness month and October itself, we have seen a significant drop in the number of women who came for screening procedures. At this stage our figures indicate that the Covid-19 restrictions have reduced the number of women screened for breast cancer by almost 50% this year,’ says Dr Pieter Henning, a radiologist at Keystone Radiology.
Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers amongst women in South Africa and almost 1 in every 25 women are likely to be diagnosed in their lifetime. Dr. Henning says the drop in screenings this year is of particular concern, given the fact that breast cancer still annually claims the lives of more woman than viral infection such as COVID-19.
‘We firmly believe that regular screening can increase early detection, which in turn will help lead to a faster diagnosis, resulting in improved treatment outcomes. The fact that fewer women are being screened and tested are therefore very worrying as most women are at risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer, particularly those with a family history,’ he says.
Henning says despite efforts to raise awareness around the disease, the majority of women in South Africa are still uninformed about the necessity for regular screening. Screening can be done via self-examination, Mammography and ultrasound – which remain the gold standard for the early detection of breast cancer. Dr Henning says that many women still do not check their breasts regularly for potential signs of breast cancer, or unaware of the signs with they can pick up during self-examination.
‘Most cases of the disease are identified when a woman has spotted a change and gone for a medical examination. Women who do not look for changes in their breasts should get in the habit of examining them, as early detection of lumps and other symptoms could save their life,’ Henning emphasises.
A lump is the most common change that may suggest a cancer. But other symptoms include an enlarging breast, nipple discharge, dimpling or puckering of the skin of the breast, the breast looking red or inflamed, and swelling in the upper chest or armpit.
‘Most changes turn out not to be due to breast cancer, however, when it is, a woman noticing a potential symptom and getting this checked by her doctor, are often the first steps that lead to diagnosis. Early diagnosis increases the chances of successful treatment, which can prevent women from dying from the disease, meaning the importance of regular breast-checking cannot be underestimated.’
Henning says with the drop in screenings during October, women should consider every month as Breast Cancer Awareness month. He says Keystone Radiology has recently launched the #ScreenHerSaveHer campaign, which is centred around early detection and treatment.
‘Unfortunately, cancer does not read or care about calendars, so we fight breast cancer every day of every month. Our #ScreenHerSaveHer campaign allows women to join the movement whereby they pledge to get screened at least one a year. They can join by clicking on the button below.
The campaign is used in conjunction with their state-of-the-art Mobile Mammogram Unit, which they deploy to various areas in the country. The mobile screening unit is equipped with state-of-the-art mammogram and breast ultrasound modalities. It focusses on patient education, comprehensive evaluation and patient-centred experiences as well as elevating the detection of breast cancer to the highest international standards.
Keystone Medical is a modern and innovative radiology service provider, offering a convenient service in low-risk environments. Their state-of-the-art equipment and highly specialised personnel offer patients a fast delivery of both radiology services and reporting.
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