Mammograms down 15% during pandemic, health system reports

Officials say COVID-19 is causing some women to forego an important routine medical procedure that can help spot and stop breast cancer before it becomes deadly.

FOX 5 Atlanta's Alex Whiller said one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. Northside Hospital officials reported mammograms in 2020 were down by 15% compared to 2019. Experts believe women are skipping the procedure for fear of being exposed to COVID-19. 

"We definitely do hear that, that women are staying home because they're not wanting to be out," Dr. Marae Hamlin with Northside Radiology Associates said. 

Hamlin said her practice is enforcing mitigation protocols such as social distancing in the waiting room, pre-appointment screening and temperature checks both to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and also ease patients' concerns.

Doctors say putting off an annual check-up could exacerbate serious health issues.

"People say that all the time, 'I can't feel it, I don't feel a problem'" Hamlin said. "We want to catch it before you ever feel it."

Hamlin said people should schedule their mammograms prior to first vaccinations or four to six weeks after the vaccination to avoid normal swelling that could cause concern during a screening. 

Urgent symptoms include changes in breast texture, discharge or unusual pain.

Women can schedule a mammogram through an OB-GYN or primary care doctor. 

Most insurance will cover an annual checkup and uninsured women can receive help from Northside's mobile mammography van

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