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Do not delay breast cancer screenings

Breast cancer and other medical illnesses remain a risk for women — even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Unfortunately, due to concerns about the virus, many women have postponed their annual screening mammograms, increasing their risk of undetected cancer.

Merit Health Natchez is encouraging women who may have delayed their mammograms to schedule the screening now, because when breast cancer is detected early, life-saving treatment can begin immediately.

When screenings are delayed, diagnosis is delayed and treatment is delayed. But the best chance for survival of any cancer is early diagnosis and treatment. Women should not be afraid to get a mammogram. Many stringent safety precautions have been put in place in our imaging center to protect everyone from COVID-19. If you’ve put off a mammogram, I’m asking you to please, don’t put it off any longer.

Early detection saves lives

Nearly all breast cancers can be treated successfully if found early. The most effective way to detect breast cancer at an early, treatable stage is to have yearly mammograms. Since mammography became widely used in the 1980s, the U.S. breast cancer death rate in women has dropped 43 percent.

Here in Mississippi, female breast cancer was the most frequently occurring cancer site for women in 2017, the most recent year data is available. 

For women of average risk, The American College of Radiology and Society of Breast Imaging recommend annual mammograms starting at age 40, with no upper age limit as long as the woman is in good health. A screening mammogram can help detect breast cancer in its earliest and most treatable stages.

Safety measures to protect against

COVID-19

For the protection of patients and staff, Merit Health Natchez is pre-screening all patients for any COVID-19 symptoms, limiting appointments to maintain social distancing, requiring staff and patients all wear masks, and cleaning commonly touched surfaces with greater frequency.

Even Safer with Our Mammography After Hours on Oct. 20 and Oct. 22

At Merit Health Natchez, we recognize it can be difficult to take time away from your job or family for a mammogram. That’s why, on Oct. 20 and Oct. 22, we’re offering Mammography After Hours from 5 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.

With our COVID-safe measures in place and your concerns about safety in mind, no other tests and/or procedures will be scheduled in our Medical Imaging Department at your after-hours appointment time. To schedule an appointment, call 601-443-2230.

3D mammography svailable in our area only at Merit Health Natchez

According to the American College of Radiology, utilizing advanced breast tomosynthesis technology, 3D mammography exams are shown to be an advance over digital (2D) mammography, with higher cancer detection rates and fewer patient recalls for additional testing.   

Since adding 3D mammography last year, our hospital’s cancer detection rate has significantly increased – from 5.88 out of 1,000 patients screened with 2D imaging to 9.24 out of 1,000 patients screened with 3D imaging. This technology has detected cancerous lumps smaller than an eraser top on a pencil. Our mammography technologists get so excited when talking about 3D mammography and the clarity of the images.

Please, take charge of your health and don’t delay life-saving treatment. Do it for yourself and those who love and depend on you.

Susan Grayson is director of Medical Imaging for Merit Health Natchez.