The Impact of COVID on Breast Cancer Screenings

Nov 05, 2021
The Impact of COVID on Breast Cancer Screenings
Hello, Warriors! Welcome to The Breast Place blog and thank you for taking time out of your active schedule to visit! We appreciate our readers to the utmost degree, as we do our patients.

Hello, Warriors! Welcome to The Breast Place blog and thank you for taking time out of your active schedule to visit! We appreciate our readers to the utmost degree, as we do our patients. Hopefully, you’re taking advantage of the current climate and enjoying our lovely city in autumn. If this is your first visit to The Breast Place blog, we cover a range of topics here. From breast cancer management to anti-aging skin treatments to helpful tips for maximizing your overall health and wellness—The Breast Place is committed to sharing the best health practices and treatment options with you! Our offices are open and our staff are prepared to answer any questions you may have about your health, your breast cancer risk, and how to reach your aesthetic goals. 

Before we dive too deeply into today’s topic, we’d like to make you aware of a few promotions available at The Breast Place this holiday season. We are partnering with Kendra Scott for their virtual charity event. On November 20th and 21st, you’ll receive a 20% discount on your purchased items when you use the code GIVEBACK-BAYSM at checkout. All proceeds will be donated to the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer organization. To read more about the event, you can visit their site. In December, we’ll be premiering a revamped BOGO--buy one gift one. You can schedule a discounted treatment session for yourself and a loved one after Black Friday. Keep a close eye on our social media for more information on our BOGO sale! We’ll also be offering a few early Black Friday sales, valid through November 22nd and November 24th. To learn about those, follow Empower on Instagram and Facebook!

Our last blog was dedicated to detailing the wonderful effects of truSculpt iD, a patented body contouring technology available here at The Breast Place. This fat-targeting treatment utilizes monopolar radio frequencies to melt fat and tighten the skin. Compared to similar body contouring techniques, truSculpt iD is quicker, painless, and effective. We explained how best to use the procedure and how long it’ll take you to see results. Everyone knows you cannot spot-reduce through exercise. Therefore, if you’ve been staying active and eating a well-balanced diet, but still cannot seem to lose stubborn pockets of fat, truSculpt iD is the perfect treatment for you!

Today, we’re exploring a serious topic. October was National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and many organizations made a concerted effort to spread the word concerning the importance of screenings and mammograms. This effort couldn’t have come at a better time, as recently published research is now beginning to draw a clear picture of the effect the pandemic had on screening rates. We want to do our part and take a closer look at how the pandemic has affected the breast cancer awareness movement, accessibility to screenings, rates of diagnosis, and more. Hopefully, this will inspire a few of you who have been putting off your screenings for the last year or two to schedule an appointment! 

Impact of COVID on Breast Cancer Screenings

The outbreak of the coronavirus saw Americans spending countless days inside their homes, avoiding large crowds, and forgoing social interaction for the sake of slowing the deadly spread. While quarantine was for a good purpose, many individuals postponed activities which would mean leaving the safety of their homes, including breast cancer screenings. The issue of declining screenings is multifaceted, as is its effect on breast cancer, meaning we’ll have to break down the impact into its individual parts. The first part is how rates of breast cancer, diagnosed and undiagnosed, have been rising in recent years. 

To be clear, breast cancer is considered to be a modern-day epidemic. One in eight American women are predicted to develop invasive breast cancer in their lifetimes. And, while the rate of death associated with invasive breast cancer has remained steady or decreased in recent decades, the rate of breast cancer development has only increased. Since 2008, breast cancer development has increased by 20%. Breast cancer is now the most common cancer worldwide and accounts for 12% of all new cancer cases according to the World Health Organization. While no one knows for sure why breast cancer is such a prevalent disease and why rates are increasing, several environmental and lifestyle factors are currently being studied to assess their effect on breast cancer development. 

The second part of understanding the impact of COVID on breast cancer screenings is understanding the role time plays in survival rates. According to the American Cancer Society, when women are diagnosed with localized breast cancers, their five-year survival rate is 99%. This figure means these women are 99% more likely than someone their age without a form of localized breast cancer to survive the next five years. For women diagnosed with regionalized breast cancers, their five-year survival rate is 86%. For women diagnosed with distant breast cancers, their five-year survival rate is 28%. As you can see, the declining trend is directly correlated to the containment or spread of the cancer. Therefore, early diagnosis is perhaps the best means of preventing deaths related to breast cancer. 

Now, given the increasing rates of breast cancer among women worldwide and given the importance of diagnosing breast cancer as early as possible, you can fully understand how detrimental the pandemic was to the fight against breast cancer. According to a report released by the American College of Radiology, breast cancer screenings decreased by a whopping 70% worldwide during the pandemic. This decline affected low-income areas disproportionately. The American Cancer Society performed their own study among lower income groups and found an 8% decrease between July 2019 and July 2020. “This study is important because these populations have long-standing barriers to accessing care, lower breast screening rates, higher breast cancer [death] rates, and are especially vulnerable to health care disruptions,” the leader of the American Cancer Society study, Stacey Fedewa, was quoted as saying. In this study alone, the decrease resulted in at least 242 missed breast cancer diagnoses. 

Many health facilities, including screening sites, closed during the early days of the pandemic or temporarily discontinued screening services to redirect their resources to assisting with the pandemic. The CDC published a study in Preventative Medicine examining the impact of COVID on their National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program. What they found was, between January 2020 and June 2020, the number of breast cancer screening tests declined 86% in metro areas, 88% in urban areas, and 89% in rural areas. Declines disportionately effects different ethnic groups, as well, with an 84% decrease in breast cancer screenings of Hispanic women, a 98% decrease in screenings among American Indian/Alaskan Native women, an 82% decrease in screenings among Black women, and a 92% decrease in screenings among Asian Pacific islander women. The lead author of the study, Amy DeGroff, PhD, MPH, said, “This study highlights a decline in cancer screening among women of racial and ethnic minority groups with low incomes when their access to medical services decreased at the beginning of the pandemic.” 

Regarding the personal impact this decrease in breast cancer screenings had on individuals, Melannie Bachman is a prime example. She was working as a freediving and certified yoga instructor in North Charleston when she felt a lump during a self-exam. Slamming with work due to layoffs during the pandemic, Bachman postponed going to the doctor. Nine months later, the lump had grown and begun to change shape. Without health insurance or disposable income, she made an appointment with the Department of Health. Bachman was soon diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent four months of chemotherapy before finally receiving a bilateral mastectomy. When asked about her experience, Backman had this to say: “I was one of those who put off my screenings and I am so grateful that we caught it at stage two. But if I had waited a month longer, or even a few weeks longer… Triple-negative breast cancer is the fastest-growing, fastest-spreading, most deadly breast cancer.” To learn more about Melannie Bachman’s story and to hear from our very own Dr. Jennifer Beatty, check out this article!

To conclude, the pandemic presented a unique challenge to patients and medical professionals alike. As we rebuild in the wake of COVID-19, bringing breast cancer screening rate back up to pre-pandemic levels is more important than ever. Breast cancer is not a death sentence. Breast cancer can and should be diagnosed in a timely manner to allow you a host of treatment options, a better chance at survival, and an easier recovery. At The Breast Place, nothing is more important to us than encouraging regular breast screenings. As you’ve seen here today, increased rates of screening can save lives. Reach out to us to schedule your free consultation! In addition to screening services, we have advanced technologies to perform breast imaging, if necessary. We look forward to hearing from you! Thanks for reading. Until next time!