Pandemic or Not, the Work to Provide Lifesaving Breast Cancer Screening Continues Beyond October

Amy Patel, MD, Chair of the American College of Radiology® (ACR®) Young and Early Career Professional Section, contributed this post.

Dr. Amy K. Patel

Suffice it to say, it has been quite a different kind of October in some ways. We had and continue to have great concern about women delaying lifesaving screenings or avoiding them altogether because of the pandemic, in addition to concerns about patients losing insurance coverage and having no access in various parts of the country. Additional concerns of safety and cleanliness were also at the forefront, and we quickly came together as a breast imaging community to lay a framework of what practices and institutions could do to keep patients and the breast imaging healthcare team safe as our doors remain open.

With that, the ACR unveiled the Return to Mammography Care Campaign, which provides a toolkit which practices can use to educate all healthcare stakeholders and provide reassurance to patients that it is safe to return to breast centers and radiology departments to receive the care they need.

Also to the contrary of a typical October, many of us in the field of breast imaging are used to doing in-person speaking events, radio shows and TV shows — essentially any in-person opportunities presented to us — so that we may educate as many people as we can regarding all things breast cancer and health. However, our worlds quickly flipped to the virtual space, and we found ourselves in a position to find new ways to engage patients, perhaps in ways we never previously fathomed.

For example, the situation we are currently experiencing presented new opportunities to shine a light on health equity, and the field of breast imaging hosted two recent webinars through the ACR and Society of Breast Imaging. These webinars were a declarative statement in voicing that our field is making ALL patients a priority, regardless of geographic location and financial status, and that we will continue to work tirelessly to address health inequities and keep this conversation going as the urgency of this is felt, arguably, now more than ever.

The work that we do is not easy, and the pandemic has added at times unfathomable layers to an already complex system and battle with contrarian groups to ensure our patients have the recommended access to the screenings they need. However, what remains constant is our commitment to our patients no matter what circumstance we face. The value of saving as many patient lives as we can is too great for us not to be connected to our patients and the breast cancer community as a whole. We must be willing to devise novel ways for community outreach, to inspire a new generation of young leaders to join us in the fight and to have an unwavering commitment to the well-being of our patients. Pandemic or not, October or not, we will continue to march on. 

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