This year, the Susan G. Komen breast cancer charitable organization of Kansas and western Missouri struck the word “awareness” from its month-long October efforts known as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, opting to insert the word “action.” This change aims to encourage more women to actively seeks breast cancer screenings.
Amy Patel, breast radiologist and medical director at Liberty Hospital Women’s Imaging, said there is a heightened endeavor among medical groups, including the American College of Radiology and the Society of Breast Imaging, to encourage women to seek screenings.
“When COVID-19 hit earlier this spring, guidelines came down to temporarily suspend screenings,” she said, “especially for those without any symptoms. Then, mammography started again around May.”
Patel said the imaging center has caught back up after that lapse, but there are many women who have not returned to have previously scheduled screenings.
There could have been more than 80,000 missed or delayed diagnoses of five common cancers by early June because of the COVID-19 pandemic, including breast and roughly 22 million canceled or delayed tests over a three-month period, reports the National Cancer Institute.
Patel said her staff are hyper-vigilant on cleanliness and maintaining fewer people in the center to allow for social distancing to help ensure a safer environment for patients.
The doctor has been participating in podcasts, radio shows and a virtual health event arranged through the Liberty Hospital Foundation to encourage and educate women.
“The efforts to educate patients are more critical now,” she said. “... We can’t let the foot off the pedal.”
Patel has also worked with state Sen. Lauren Arthur of District 17, which includes Liberty, on legislation, now law, that helps high-risk women in getting breast cancer screenings earlier. The law also expands insurance coverage for breast cancer screenings such as breast MRIs for high-risk women in Missouri.
“I want us to be more aggressive as we help younger women because all these things spell out saving lives,” Patel said.
Currently, the Cancer Registry lists Clay County among one of the top four counties for highest death rates due to breast cancer.
“I don’t want patients to delay getting medical care, which starts with the screening and that mammogram being read by a breast imaging specialist,” Patel said. “Early detection saves lives, so it’s important for women to take screening seriously and know when to be screened.
“Eventually, it would be great to have a world free of breast cancer.”