130 Local Women Could Have Breast Cancer and Not Know
The COVID-19 pandemic has led millions of women to miss potentially life-saving screenings.
GREENSBORO – Kiva Elliott, Cone Health’s chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer, knows the importance of a mammogram all too well. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in June 2020 after noticing a small lump in her breast.
“Something just did not feel normal,” Elliott said. “Even though my mammogram did not raise concerns, my physician moved forward with diagnostic testing. That decision saved my life.”
Elliott was originally scheduled to have her annual mammogram in March 2020, but it was postponed as the U.S. faced a surge in COVID-19 cases. Fortunately, she paid close attention to her health and rescheduled her screening for June when she was diagnosed and quickly began receiving treatment for breast cancer. Today, she is a cancer survivor because of early detection.
The pandemic affected millions of people like Elliott. According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 22 million cancer screenings were canceled or missed between March and June 2020.
Locally, those cancellations resulted in an estimated 130 fewer women in the Cone Health system being diagnosed with breast cancer. That means 130 local women could currently have breast cancer and not know it, says Cone Health Chief of Oncology Dr. Matthew Manning. Although the thought might be scary, coming in for a screening as soon as possible could be the best defense against the disease.
“If we catch breast cancer when it’s the size of a grape or smaller, then we have a very good chance of curing it,” Manning said. “Finding out if you have breast cancer or not is the first step to beating breast cancer.”
Dr. Beth Hodges, medical director for the Triad HealthCare Network, has had patients who missed mammograms in 2020 and were later diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer in 2021. Hodges says it is important for women who missed their mammograms last year to reschedule them as soon as possible.
“Although it might not seem like a big deal to skip your mammogram for a year, that could be the year that things change,” Hodges said. “Skipping one could literally change the rest of your life.”
Given the positive outcome of Elliott’s story, she hopes others will follow her example and reschedule their mammograms to give themselves a fighting chance against the disease.
“While we know the devastating impact COVID-19 is having within our community and communities around the world, I can’t stress enough the importance of continuing to get screenings and regular care,” Elliot said.
To schedule a mammogram through Cone Health, visit the health care system’s Mammography and Breast Imaging website or find information about upcoming mobile mammography events here.