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Breast Cancer Testing During the Pandemic

October 22nd, 2020 - By Andrew Fearnley

breast cancer awareness

BreastCancer.Org statistics state that one woman out of eight can lose their life to an invasive form of breast cancer.

This means that 2020, alone, will report approximately 300,000 new cases of breast cancer, despite the hovering pandemic of COVID-19. Although the crisis had put breast cancer screening on hold for a while, “Breast Cancer Awareness” month of October calls for the continued awareness of its risk, prevention, and treatment options. The goal of breast cancer awareness campaign is to increase awareness among women and allow their easy access to health education, screening, early diagnosis and prompt treatment, hope and support.

Need for Screening Amidst Pandemic!

The fear of contracting COVID in hospitals has dissuaded people from getting screened for non-COVID diseases like breast cancer. There has been an 80% decline in screening and diagnostic mammograms and 50% decline in visits to primary healthcare centers. The decline in breast cancer screening will have substantial outcomes, leading to almost 6000-7000 excess deaths from breast cancer. Check Death Ratio

COVID-19 pandemic has also unprecedently disrupted the cancer research community and slowed down research trials.

Delayed Breast Cancer Screening During COVID-19 Pandemic

COVID-19 pandemic has led to delays in various Breast Cancer Screening tests including Ultrasound, Mammogram and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) due to the fear of contracting virus in healthcare settings and the shift of priorities from screening procedures to the treatment of COVID patients. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) report, Between January to June 2020, 144,982 fewer mammograms were performed.

The decline in screening programs will lead to threatening delays in early diagnosis of breast cancer and possible loss of lives.

Telehealth Solutions for Breast Cancer Screening

COVID-19 pandemic has led to new advancements in telehealth techniques, promising an increased access to mammographic screening of breast cancer and a team of healthcare professionals for the treatment of patients living in remote areas.

High-Grade Transmission of Digital Mammography

Alan Melton, MD, Assistant Clinical Professor of Radiology at New York Presbyterian Hospital-Columbia University Medical Center illustrated that with the help of a good internet connection, it is possible to transmit high-grade digital mammography to remote areas where a radiology specialist could interpret them. In his report, Melton presented 8,400 transmissions received at his mammography-reviewing workstation 110 miles away from Metropolitan New York City, in Avon, CT. Out of 8,400, only one report had to be re-sent due to a drop in information. These results demonstrate the efficiency of telemedicine in mammographic screening of breast cancer.

Also Read: How to Use Telehealth in Cancer Care During the Coronavirus Pandemic and Beyond

Transmission of mammographic images allows a steady flow of work to the radiology specialist where he can dedicate a specific period of time to interpret the images. Also, while the specialist is in his workstation, he can review hundreds of images in few hours.

Telemedicine Meetings for The Management of Patients

elemedicine interaction between doctor and patientAccording toa report by Ian Kunkler, MB, a consultant oncologist at Western General Hospital in Edinburgh, Scotland, a breast cancer team from separate hospitals can discuss management plans of patients through a telemedicine meeting. Telemedicine system allows rapid and accurate transmission of information.

Reduction in The Waiting Time for Women

Remote digital screening mammography has reduced the waiting time from six months to three months for women awaiting their mammography results. This promises early screening, diagnosis and prompt management of breast cancer in remote areas.

Conclusion

Ever-advancing telemedicine, if used efficiently, can facilitate multidisciplinary team meetings of oncologists for the management of breast cancer at all levels.


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