Doctors, cancer survivors encourage women not to skip annual mammogram

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Call it another symptom of the pandemic: Routine cancer screenings are down this year. During breast cancer awareness month, doctors and survivors are urging women not to skip their annual mammograms.

“It really really was about knowing my body and knowing when something did not feel right,” said Amy Deavitt, a breast cancer survivor.

Amy Deavitt was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer when she was 32. She underwent a mastectomy, chemo, and radiation at UVM medical center. Now, Deavitt celebrates 17 years of survivorship, but says yearly checks are still crucial.

“It’s magnificently important to have that on time screening for me, both mentally and physically,” she said. “I trusted that my health institution would keep me safe and I had an amazing experience every step of the way.”

In fact, Deavitt had her most recent exam Tuesday in a time many people are avoiding hospitals and doctors offices during the pandemic, if it’s not an emergency situation.

“It makes me sad and a little nervous that people aren’t going to get checked,” said Dr. Mary Stanley. “It’s a real thing that happened not just during the shutdown but it does persist.”

Dr. Stanley is a surgeon and physician specializing in breast cancer. She says during the initial shutdown screenings had to stop for a few weeks which delayed diagnosis for some, but is hopeful it won’t impact their overall treatment.

1 in every 8 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime. Dr. Stanley says early detection is one of the most important things when it comes to the disease.

“That’s why screening mammography really truly saves lives,” she said. “We just want to minimize fear of coming in, either from COVID or just fear of coming in because we know how to take care of these things and the success rate is actually very high.”

Dr. Stanley says women after 40 should have mammograms every year. Those with family history of breast cancer should start testing earlier and more often.

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