Physician encourages breast cancer screenings after pandemic delays them
JONESBORO, Ark- Some people have put off health screenings like mammograms due to the pandemic. But doctors say it's time to make an appointment as a person is diagnosed with breast cancer every two minutes in the United States.
“An hour of your time can save your life,” says Dr. Sharp Malak, diagnostic radiologist with St. Bernards Medical Center.
Dr. Malak says they have seen cases of women delaying screenings due to the pandemic who have developed aggressive breast cancer. Something he says that could have been caught in the early stages by a mammogram.
“It’s really, unfortunate but the pandemic placed a real challenge for us. Because most of our patients are healthy, of course, and most of our patients don’t have any signs or symptoms of breast cancer. And, so, for them to brave coming to the hospital when the pandemic was at its height was really problematic. But now, we’re at a situation where it's safe for patients to get their screening,” he says.
Dr. Malak says every woman should get an assessment at the age of 30 to determine if they are at high risk for developing the cancer. If one is not high risk, they should start getting a mammogram every year starting at 40, as early-stage breast cancer can present symptom-free.
“We find that women who are screened every year, their chance of dying of breast cancer is almost 40% less than a woman who never gets screened who comes later when she has a clinical symptom like a palpable mass in her breast. We can offer women the best chance of survival of beating cancer because we often find the cancer at a smaller size, earlier stage, less chance of it spreading to other parts of the body, a smaller surgery and more effective chemotherapy,” Dr. Malak said when talking about breast cancer treatment St. Bernards offers.
A woman doesn’t need a referral to get a mammogram. St. Bernards has a mobile mammogram unit that gives free screenings across the region.
With one in eight women developing breast cancer in their lifetime, it’s important to get checked, even if you don’t have a family history.
“Because it’s such a common disease, you can’t use that risk factor to determine if you need to get screened or not. Everyone, 40 [years old] needs to be screened, with a mammography,” the diagnostic radiologist said.
Dr. Malak says minority women are 70% more likely to develop breast cancer than white women. Which makes getting a risk assessment at thirty even more imperative.