Dear Ellie Fund Community,

As an oncologist specializing in breast cancer treatment, I cannot overstate the importance of routine screenings such as mammograms. The goal of breast cancer screening is to identify a cancer early, when it is easier to treat, and before it has a chance to grow or spread. Research has shown that screening mammography improves survival from breast cancer.

This spring, as the COVID-19 pandemic hit our area, non-emergency medicine slowed to a crawl and routine medical examinations, including mammograms, were postponed. In turn, my colleagues and I witnessed a dramatic decline in new diagnoses of breast cancer. As much as I wish this decline were due to a decrease in breast cancer incidence, I know breast cancer is as present as ever. This difference is due to a marked decline in breast cancer screening.

It is important for women to know that at this time, it is safe to see your doctor, and get your annual mammogram. During the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals and doctors’ offices are taking precautions to ensure safety. Please do not let fear of COVID-19 prevent you from getting your annual mammogram. In fact, some of my patients have told me that they were relieved that the process seemed more efficient and streamlined than before the pandemic.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. My wish is that all women who are eligible for screening will call their doctor, and schedule their mammogram appointment. And let’s encourage our friends and family members to do the same. At this time, when so much of our lives is out of our control, we all have the opportunity to take charge of our health and self-care.

2020 has been a stressful year, with great uncertainty and many unknowns. However, I know this much is true- early detection of breast cancer is key to saving lives.  

Amy Comander, MD
Director of Breast Oncology and Survivorship, Mass General Cancer Center at Waltham and at Newton-Wellesley Hospital
Medical Director, Mass General Cancer Center at Waltham