Doctors stress importance of annual breast exam

Doctors are pushing to make sure that even with the pandemic disrupting normal life, people know breast cancer is still a big threat.
Published: Oct. 1, 2020 at 6:22 PM CDT
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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - Doctors are pushing to make sure that even with the pandemic disrupting normal life, people know breast cancer is still a big threat. Some may have had to cancel their annual exam appointments when doctors offices closed in the spring or they’re nervous to go back for health reasons. Doctors at CHI St. Francis said getting the annual breast exams can help catch cancer before it becomes deadly.

Most women know to feel for any lumps or unusual marks on their breasts. During mammograms, doctors have their eyes on something much smaller.

“They’re often just the size of a tip of a pen, very small, and that is what early cancer shows up as on our mammograms,” Diagnostic Radiologist Dr. Daniel Novinski said. “Probably three or four years if it is breast cancer prior to them actually being able to feel it.”

If the calcification is deemed cancerous, they are able to make a small cut to remove it. Sixty-four percent of breast cancer is found at this localized stage which has a high survival rate of 99 percent.

“If we can find it early when it’s that small it can actually be taken out before the cancer can be taken to the lymph nodes,” Dr. Novinski said.

There has been some confusion of how old someone should be and how often they need an appointment. Dr. Novinski said any woman over the age of 40 needs to come once a year. If there is a history in the family women should come in 10 years prior to the age the family member was diagnosed.

“Three out of four patients that have breast cancer don’t have a family history of breast cancer,” Dr. Novinski said. “So a lot of people think ‘oh I don’t have a family history I don’t need a mammogram’ but it’s just as important for all women to come in and have a mammogram.”

The Women’s Imaging Center is catching up after five weeks of being closed and have seen a steady increase of people return to fill their schedule. There are several health precautions in place to protect their patients from COVID-19 such as regular cleaning, required masks, and social distancing in the lobby. They said women should still find the time for their appointments even if it takes a while to get in.

“'Statistics have found that 30 percent of cancers have actually been missed because patients are skipping one year or not doing it annually,” Dr. Novinski said.

The National Breast Cancer Foundation estimates every two minutes a woman is diagnosed with the disease and they hope more can catch it sooner.

CHI Health is partnering with MDsave to help uninsured women get access to an affordable examination. During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the hospital is hoping to eliminate at least the cost barrier for Nebraskans with no or high-deductible insurance.

Until midnight on Oct. 31, MDsave is offering 3D mammograms with pre-paid vouchers for $149 to be redeemed at CHI Health facilities across the state. The normal cost for the voucher is estimated at $264. Discounted vouchers must be purchased by Oct. 31, but mammograms aren’t required to be scheduled in October.

According to the MDsave website, procedures available for purchase include endoscopy, colonoscopy, imaging/radiology, lab work, drug testing, newborn/cesarean delivery and nutritional counseling. Procedure purchases must be made prior to checking in at the hospital. MDsave isn’t available for Medicare or Medicaid patients and will not file an insurance claim. However, purchasers may be able to apply payment to their deductible depending on the insurance provider and plan.

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