Breast cancer and other medical illnesses remain a risk for women, even during a pandemic. Unfortunately, due to concerns about the virus, many women have postponed their annual mammograms, increasing their risk of undetected cancer. A few Keys organizations are encouraging women of all income levels who may have delayed their mammograms to schedule the screening now, because when breast cancer is detected early, life-saving treatment can begin immediately.  

“When screenings are delayed, diagnosis is delayed, and treatment is delayed,” said Stanley Santiago, MD, MBA, FACOG, of Keys Medical Group Obstetrics and Gynecology.  “But the best chance for survival of any cancer is early diagnosis and treatment.  Women should not be afraid to get a mammogram.  Many stringent safety precautions have been put in place in our imaging center to protect everyone from COVID-19, so if you’ve put off a mammogram, don’t put it off any longer.”

The American College of Radiology and Society of Breast Imaging recommend that all women, particularly African American and those of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, should have a risk assessment at age 30 to see if a screening earlier than age 40 is needed. Women who were previously diagnosed with breast cancer are recommended to be screened with magnetic resonance imaging, an MRI.

For women of average risk, the ACR and SBI recommend annual mammograms starting at age 40, with no upper age limit as long as the woman is in good health. A screening mammogram can help detect breast cancer in its earliest and most treatable stages.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Lower Keys Medical Center’s Women’s Imaging Center expanded their mammography hours in October to accommodate screenings. Though only a couple more mammography appointments are available through the end of October and the center is now scheduling mammograms in November, LKMC encourages women to buy a coupon for $149 before the end of the month from to go toward the cost of the mammogram. If bought in the month of October, the coupon is good for six months. Call LKMC at 305-294-5535, extension 3308, for more information. 

The Good Health Clinic, which has offices in Tavernier and Marathon, offers healthcare for low-income and uninsured residents of the Keys. A patient goes through a financial screening with a two-day turn around. If approved, the patient will be approved for charity care, which includes mammograms. Call 305-853-1788 for more information. WomanKind in Key West also provides a similar service. Its number is 305-294-4004.

The Zonta Club of Marathon is an organization of business and professional women dedicated to improving the circumstances of women and will pay for mammograms, including ultrasound and diagnostic, for the uninsured and underinsured. Email [email protected] for more information.

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