Breast cancer screenings and diagnoses have decreased by up to 51% across the US in the last year, according to a recent study. At Island Hospital, screenings are down by a less staggering number, at just 25%. But even this percentage drop requires attention and discussion.

There are a few explanations for this, and not surprisingly, COVID-19 is one central reason why women have been postponing scheduling a mammogram over the last year. At the beginning of the pandemic, many non-essential procedures were postponed, in order to reserve medical resources and limit infections of COVID-19.

However, breast cancer screenings are still just as important at this time, especially with research supporting such a drastic decrease over the last year. “While residents have taken to social distancing, cancer does not pause,” the researchers said. “The delay in diagnosis will likely lead to presentation at more advanced stages and poorer clinical outcomes. One study suggests a potential increase of 33,890 excessive cancer deaths in the United States.”

What this means for you

If you have been putting off getting a mammogram this past year, first of all, know that you are not alone. But regular screenings for breast cancer, including mammograms and breast exams by your physician, are incredibly important now. Early detection is crucial with breast cancer, and can often result in better prognosis and treatment plan options.

Recommended ages for breast exams and mammograms:

  • Women age 20-39: Clinical breast exam during annual exam, and regular breast self-exams.
  • Women age 40 and over: Annual mammogram starting at age 40; Clinical breast exam during annual exam, and regular breast self-exams.

Mammograms and the COVID-19 vaccine

While many experts recommend that you wait four to six weeks to have a regular screening mammogram after your COVID-19 vaccination, please remember that if you have any particular concerns, you still ought to speak with your physician as soon as possible. Together with your provider, you can make an educated decision regarding when you should schedule your mammogram. Although there may be additional swelling in the lymph nodes after a COVID-19 vaccination, it is still possible to have a screening, if you and your provider decide it is prudent to do so sooner rather than later. If you have received your vaccination four to six weeks ago, we recommend scheduling your screening now, if together with your provider you decide it is the right time for you to do so. We hope that this information will encourage you to not delay or push back your screenings any longer due to concerns about COVID-19.

Island Hospital makes it easy to schedule your mammogram screening, even offering evening and weekend appointments for expanded availability. If you have any concerns or would like to discuss your risk factors and when you should start screenings for breast cancer, please don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with your provider.


For screening mammogram appointments call 360-299-4288.

If you need help finding a provider, please call (360) 293-3101.



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Published on October 1, 2021