This is part of a blog series from genetic counselors at the Basser Center. This was written by Danielle McKenna, MS, LCGC.
As breast cancer awareness month comes to an end, it is important to remember that breast cancer awareness is important all year round—even during a global pandemic. Although most routine cancer screenings were postponed during the early months of the pandemic, many imaging centers have resumed routine screenings and have implemented new polices to keep patients and healthcare providers safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, several studies have demonstrated that cancer rates have dropped significantly during COVID-19 which indicates that many cancers are going undiagnosed as a result of the decrease in cancer screening. The goal of cancer screening is to detect cancer in the earliest, most treatable stages. Delaying cancer screening can result in cancers being diagnosed at later, more advanced stages.
For women with mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2, breast cancer screening typically starts at age 25. For women at average risk of breast cancer, breast cancer screening typically starts at age 40. If there is a history of a young breast cancer in the family (diagnosed under 50), breast cancer screening may start earlier than 40. If you have a strong family history of breast cancer and/or dense breast tissue, then your doctors may recommend a breast MRI in addition to a mammogram. For men with mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2, clinical breast exams are recommended starting at age 35. Mammograms are not typically performed in men unless there is a significant amount of breast tissue. Additional screening recommendations for men and women with BRCA mutations can be found on our website.
If you have postponed your breast cancer screening (or any other cancer screening) because of COVID it is time to get back on track. If you have concerns about screening safely amid a pandemic, please talk to your doctor or the imaging center to learn more about the precautions that have been put in place. If you're in the Philadelphia area and want to make an appointment at the Basser Center, call 215-349-9093 or email Basserinfo@pennmedicine.upenn.edu.