Dr. Chambers on the Importance of Breast Cancer Screenings

Mara Chambers, MD, is an associate professor of medicine in the division of medical oncology with an interest in breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. She also serves as chair of the Markey Cancer Center’s Clinical Care and Research Team (CCART) for breast cancer and is on the UK College of Medicine Admissions Committee.

In the following Q&A, Dr. Chambers discusses how COVID-19 has affected the turnout for breast cancer screenings and why it is so important that patients still make them part of their routines.

Q: How has COVID-19 impacted your practice?

A: COVID-19 has had an impact on most medical oncology practices. We are seeing a number of cases of delayed diagnoses as some patients missed their screening mammograms in 2020. They are now presenting with more advanced disease in 2021.

Q: How important are breast cancer screenings?

A: Keeping up with breast cancer screening is an important part of health care maintenance as it is the only modality that consistently has been found to decrease breast cancer-related deaths. Early detection saves lives!

Q: How can patients be safe amid COVID-19 when going in for breast cancer screenings?

A: All safety protocols are followed including social distancing, sanitizing surfaces, and wearing of masks by employees and patients. If you are ill, we ask that you reschedule your appointment once you are feeling better. The safety of our patients and employees is of utmost importance.

Q: How often should you have them?

A: There are several organizations with published guidelines regarding the frequency of mammographic screening. The American Cancer Society’s guidelines are as follows for average risk individuals: 

  • Women ages 40-44 should have the choice to start annual screening mammograms
  • Women ages 45-54 should have annual screening mammograms
  • Women 55 and older can change to a biennial screening or continue with annual screening
  • Continue screening as long as the person is in good health with a life expectancy of 10 years or greater
  • All women should be familiar with the known benefits, limitations, and potential harms of breast cancer screening