Avera Medical Minute: Breast health exams during the pandemic

 Importance of mammograms during pandemic
Importance of mammograms during pandemic (KSFY)
Published: Jun. 10, 2020 at 7:29 PM CDT
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This is a story of my procrastination, and finally getting a mammogram.

The COVID-19 pandemic pushed back an appointment I had made months ago. My last mammogram was in 2018 and long overdue.

Deb Lather is welcoming, calming and ready to help. She has been with Avera for over 30 years.

"Alright Beth," Lather says. "I'll let you come in and have a seat there. I'm going to ask you a few questions before we go ahead and do your mammogram."

We talk about my health history, a benign lump removed years ago, and family history of cancer.

Does getting a mammogram hurt? I've had friends who say it does. For me, it feels like a lot of pressure. The plates compress the tissue and the machine starts to move around me. Thankfully the plates were not cold and the one-time use coverings were not sticky.

The 3D mammogram machine captures multiple images in various positions, allowing those reading the images to get very precise readings. The results will be ready in about a week.

Avera breast surgeon Dr. Michelle Bryan says they've delayed staff vacations to help patients like me catch up on mammograms that have been put off.

"Breast cancers, by the time they become palpable, a lot of them are much farther along, so this is how we catch things early," said Dr. Bryan.

She recommends an annual mammogram starting at the age of 40.

"Twenty percent of our breast cancers locally are less than 50, so starting at 40 is important," said Dr. Bryan.

If you've put off your screening now is the time to make an appointment.

"We're really worried and there's a lot of talk in the medical literature about a second wave, of morbidity or mortality from COVID from people who put off life-saving screenings, interventions, things like that," said Dr. Bryan.

You can be assured that Avera staff is doing all they can to keep you safe while coming in for any procedure or screening.

"You're probably safer there, with a known entity, with healthcare professionals who know how to clean and sterilize everything versus some areas of the public," said Dr. Bryan.

With more social distancing, your appointment may take a few minutes longer, but it's worth the peace of mind.

"Know that we are all working behind the scenes, so don't get frustrated. Don't let it put you off from something that's really, really important for your health," said Dr. Bryan.

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