As Breast Cancer Awareness month comes to a close, I can’t help but wonder how many breast cancer diagnoses were delayed, screenings postponed, surgeries deferred at the height of the pandemic, and how many patients and their outcomes may have been affected because of the pandemic. There is no question that COVID-19 has adversely affected the health of many men and women, and breast cancer is no exception. We may never know how many lives have been, and will be, changed as a result.
Back in March, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and local and state governments recommended that healthcare systems delay elective care, meaning surgeries, screenings, and other treatments that were not considered urgent or emergencies. It had to be done. We needed to keep everyone safe. Hospitals needed to cancel certain types of surgeries to protect patients and conserve resources such as hospital beds, personal protective equipment (PPE), and blood supply so these could be used to care for seriously ill patients with COVID-19.
Even though the elective surgeries were delayed, they were not permanently canceled. Please remember that if your elective surgery was delayed, this does not mean that it was not a necessary surgery. If you haven’t revisited your health care needs, now is the time to do so. Now that some of the earlier restrictions have been lifted and more resources are available in different parts of the country, doctors are able to look at each person’s unique situation and diagnosis and decide how best to proceed. For breast cancer patients and survivors, please be sure to follow up on your health needs.
If you have recently been diagnosed with breast cancer, it’s important that you can still seek medical help and treatment. People already in treatment for breast cancer may be at higher risk for complications from COVID-19 if their treatments have caused them to become immunocompromised (have a weakened immune system) or if they have predisposing underlying medical conditions. Be sure to talk to your health care provider(s) regarding your situation and formulate a care plan together. It is imperative that great care is taken for your diagnosis and treatment during this difficult time with COVID.