COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) – The COVID-19 pandemic shutdown much of the country in March 2020 including temporarily closing the doors non-emergency medical centers. According to breastcancer.org, we saw a decrease of 49%.
A decrease that Medical Director for Piedmont Columbus Regional’s Breast Cancer Center Dr. Andrea Nicole Cole can easily hurt a breast cancer preventative care plan.
“Mammography allows to detect cancer almost two years before it’s palpable on a physical examine so we don’t really do the patients any justice if we’re not helping to diagnose as early as possible when it’s a stage zero or still confined to the duct which is called TCIS,” said Dr. Cole.
Dr. Cole went on to explain that cancer has a doubling rate of 120 days, meaning, the six to nine month delay in screenings during the COVID-19 shutdown impacted some patients’ preventative care plan.
“There are 3.1 million survivors. Well the reason for the, for their survivorships is because of early access to care and early detection,” said Dr. Cole. “If that’s not happening as a result of the pandemic well then basically our odds are against us.”
She said there’s been specific groups who faced access to care challenges before the pandemic that are now being disproportionately affected by this delay.
Dr. Cole says rural areas have seen approximately a 60% decline in screenings and women of color have seen up to a 65% decline in screenings.
“Overall if you have a population that’s at a disadvantage prior to the pandemic, then you have almost a 6 to 9 month delay as a result of the pandemic, then it becomes almost like an after thought.” said Dr. Cole.
Now Piedmont is making the shift towards getting these women scheduled and through the doors of the facility as soon as possible.
They’re doing this by emailing the over 300,000 patients who had a delayed or missed screenings and calling the rest. They will then work with them to get them in the doors for a mammogram in the next couple days.
Dr. Cole shares that you don’t need a doctor’s prescription to schedule a mammogram and can do so simply by going to their website or calling their facility.