Posted by: Duke Raleigh Hospital | November 6, 2020

Early Detection Saves Lives

​​​​​​When COVID-19 hit, many appointments were cancelled while medical officials figured out the best way to go about them safely. While facilities have put precautions in place, many patients are putting off annual exams and screenings because of fear they could contract COVID-19.​

Duke experts want patients to know that they should keep up with their yearly screening mammograms and can do so safely.

According to Tammy Kreuzer, MD, radiologist and breast imaging specialist with Duke Women’s Cancer Center Raleigh, women should begin having annual screening mammograms at age 40. If your screening mammogram is abnormal or there are other clinical issues like new lump, pain, tenderness, skin changes or swelling, a diagnostic mammogram will be ordered. Around 10 percent of screening mammograms get called back for a diagnostic mammogram.

“Patients can feel at ease because we are taking all the precautions,” said Alexis Eaves, RTRM, mammography technician with Duke Women’s Cancer Care Raleigh. “Every team member wears a mask and we are limiting the number of patients in the waiting room and in the dressing rooms at a time. We also wipe down machines, door knobs and anything the patient may have touched between each screening.”​

Additionally, patients have their temperatures checked and are asked COVID-19 screening questions before entering. They are required to wear masks and no family members are allowed inside the office.

“If you put off your mammogram for too long cancers could be missed or diagnosed at a later stage,” said Kreuzer. “A full year could be the difference between catching something in the early stages where it hasn’t spread to an advanced stage.”

Annual screening mammography is the only test that has been proven to decrease the number of deaths related to breast cancer. Catching breast cancer early also means less treatment. According to Kreuzer, the majority of patients with cancer detected early don’t need chemotherapy and need less surgery.

“The most important thing in saving lives is early detection and we have good evidence that the measures we are taking to protect patients during the current pandemic are effective,” said Kreuzer.​

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