September 12, 2020

Don’t delay breast cancer screenings, say health experts

Human Services Director David Scrase goes over the latest data for New Mexico on Thursday at the Capitol during a news conference covering the state’s COVID-19 response.

Breast cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed types of cancer for women in New Mexico and cancer experts urge women to make appointments if they previously delayed mammograms due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

State Human Services Department Secretary Dr. David Scrase said during Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s press conference on Thursday there was a “serious drop off in preventive services” in the spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And not all women who should be getting regular mammogram screenings this year have returned to see a health provider.

“Stop delaying,” Scrase said. “If you are at high risk, schedule your screening today.”

Women are considered high risk if they have a family history of breast cancer or are over the age of 50.

Adrienne Lynch, senior regional media advocacy manager for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, told NM Political Report that from 2012 to 2016, breast cancer was the most commonly diagnosed type of cancer for women in New Mexico.

Scrase said the earlier women receive a diagnosis, the earlier they can begin treatment. That doesn’t just mean better outcomes. It also means the cost of treatment tends to be lower, he said.

Scrase said early stage breast cancer requires one or two modes of treatment with surgery or radiation. But more advanced cancer requires three modes of treatment because it usually also includes chemotherapy.

Lynch said by phone that the nonprofit group, which has a New Mexico chapter, began a survey last spring to track cancer treatment and screenings during 2020 because of the pandemic. Lynch said that nationwide, 25 percent of cancer patients and survivors reported experiencing delays to imaging services. That includes mammograms.

Another 23 percent, nationwide, were worried they would lose health insurance due to the pandemic and the economic instability that has resulted.

“This could be an incredible barrier,” Lynch said. “Early intervention and detection saves lives.”