ST. LOUIS – New research suggests that as many as 10,000 U.S. women will die of breast cancer in the upcoming years because they skipped a mammogram due to COVID concerns. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and Siteman Cancer Center is doing its part to meet women and men where they are at through their mobile mammography van.
“As a result of COVID, we’ve seen that some folks have delayed their annual mammogram. At some point, the risk of delaying your annual mammogram is actually greater than the risk of COVID,” said Melody Schaeffer, manager of community health for Siteman Cancer Center.
During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the Siteman Mammography Van will visit various locations throughout the St. Louis region, including local grocery stores, corporations, clinic partners, and more, to screen thousands of community members. The van is equipped with the same resources as any other Siteman Cancer Center location, providing 3D mammography and radiologist evaluations on board. The van serves as an option for patients who are hesitant to visit hospitals and doctor’s offices due to COVID.
Laura-Lee Whitlaw utilized the mammography van in 2015 when it was made accessible at her place of work.
“It showed up at my office. I had to walk out the door, get on the van, and boom, I was done,” she said. “They’re the ones that found my cancer the first time.”
Whitlaw was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer that day. She says if it wasn’t for the accessibility of the van she wouldn’t have taken the time to get her annual mammogram. Even with an at-home screening, she doesn’t believe she would have caught the cancer. Missed mammograms may not seem significant, but can result in a later diagnosis, which limits treatment options and could mean a worse outcome.
Whitlaw is undergoing chemotherapy for the second round of breast cancer. She has been thankful for the early detection in both instances and now using her experience to encourage others to take care of their bodies and not brush mammograms under the rug
“Early detection is key. Nobody wants to know they have cancer, but ignorance is not bliss in this situation. The sooner you get the detection done your treatment plan is so much easier,” Whitlaw said.
You can find a list of mammography van locations and dates, as well as schedule an appointment, by clicking here.