We have officially entered October which means it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected breast cancer screening rates. The CDC reports screening rates dropped as much as 89% across the country during the pandemic.
Doctors and breast cancer survivors are urging everyone to get screened.
“Catch it early, go get that mammogram, take that 15 minutes, take the 20 minutes. Get it when it’s just a small stone,” breast cancer survivor Rebecca Cressman said.
Cressman is a breast cancer survivor, a wife and a mother of three sons. She underwent chemotherapy and a double mastectomy. She said knowing when to get your screening is important.
Women aged 40-44 have the choice to start breast cancer screening, women aged 45-49 should be screened annually and women 50 and older should be screened once every two years.
“It still rocked the foundation of my world because cancer is not a known entity that you can do specific treatments and be done,” Cressman said.
Rebecca was only 54 years old when she was diagnosed with stage 2B breast cancer and was afraid of not knowing whether she would beat the odds and live a long life.
“I broke down crying when I told them. My sons were strong and they were scared and my husband was really, really devastated, but I think it’s because cancer is such a scary word,” she said.
Joelle Fierro from the Cancer Control Program said a lot of what she hears is that people are scared. “They don’t want to know. But not knowing only makes things worse,” she said.
Fierro said mammograms can find the breast cancer sometimes years before it can be felt or even seen. Scheduling a mammogram is easy. An easy 20 minutes that could save a life.
“There’s no meeting, there’s no meal, there’s no soccer practice, there’s no work responsibility that is more important than you taking 20 minutes out of the year to go get your screening,” Cressman said.
Fierro said before COVID-19, only about 61% of Utah women were getting screened for breast cancer, that is barely more than half.
“1 in 8 women get breast cancer and your two biggest risk factors are being a woman and getting older. Period. That’s it,” she said.
Many clinics across the state of Utah offer screenings. You can visit cancerutah.org to find a screening provider near you.