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University of California San Diego Health

COVID-19 Impacted Breast Cancer Screening, Health Disparities Continue

UC San Diego Health experts available to discuss these and related topics during Breast Cancer Awareness Month 

Mammography is the most effective tool for screening breast cancer, using X-rays to identify abnormalities in breast tissues. Although health care facilities saw a decline in these screenings at the start of the pandemic, screening rates have returned to more typical levels at UC San Diego Health.

“It is critical that women continue to see their doctors for yearly breast screening and inform their health care providers of physical changes they have observed,” said Anne Wallace, MD, director of the Comprehensive Breast Health Clinic at UC San Diego Health.

“UC San Diego Health has implemented stringent infection-prevention protocols and systems — including universal masking, health screening protocols and physical distancing practices — to keep patients and team members safe. Don’t wait to see your doctor. Mammograms can find early signs of breast cancer when it is most treatable.”

The National Cancer Institute estimates 279,480 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2020. Although 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, 90 percent of patients with breast cancer survive five years or longer due to early detection and treatment. Despite a high survival rate, 42,000 women will die from the disease this year.

According to a recent report by the American Association for Cancer Research, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among African American women, with 33,840 new cases estimated to have been diagnosed in 2019.

“White women are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer, but African American women face a disproportionately high mortality rate. Compared to white women, African American women are 39 percent more likely to die from breast cancer,” said Angelique E. Richardson, MD, PhD, a medical oncologist at UC San Diego Health who specializes in breast cancer treatment and whose research involves cancer health disparities.

“One of the factors contributing to this disparity is that African American women are less likely to undergo routine breast screenings and are being diagnosed at later stages of disease. We need to understand why these disparities exist and work to improve or eliminate them.”

Additional information about breast cancer:

  • The Women Informed to Screen Depending on Measures of Risk (WISDOM) clinical trial at UC San Diego Health aims to uncover whether annual mammograms are the best way to screen for breast cancer or whether a personalized approach is best; information is available at http://www.thewisdomstudy.org/
  • Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women behind lung cancer
  • There are more than 3.5 million breast cancer survivors in the United States
  • Men can also develop breast cancer, although it is much less common

Established in 1978, Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego Health is San Diego’s only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center. According to the 2020-2021 U.S. News & World Report, UC San Diego Health cancer services ranked among the top in the nation.

Wallace, Richardson and other oncologists at UC San Diego Health are available throughout October to discuss breast cancer risk, detection and treatment.




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