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Our View: Even amid pandemic, regular cancer screenings are crucial | COMMENTARY

Amy Doody of Amy's Laundry in Westminster had her windows painted in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month as part of Carroll Hospital's "Paint Carroll Pink" initiative.
Amy Doody of Amy's Laundry in Westminster had her windows painted in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month as part of Carroll Hospital's "Paint Carroll Pink" initiative. (Dylan Slagle/Carroll County Times)

At some point each October over the past decade, for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we have produced an edition devoted to raising awareness not only for breast cancer but for all types of cancers. We hope the community draws inspiration from some of the survivor stories, insight from the medical professionals and hope from the strides being made to combat cancer, which claims more than one-half million American lives annually.

We always try to remind everyone that Breast Cancer Awareness Month is about more than ribbons or slogans or even fundraising. There are faces and families behind every statistic. Every single day in the United States, some 5,000 people hear the scariest three words in the English language emanating from a trusted doctor: You have cancer. That’s when the fight begins and, fortunately, treatment has come a long way, breakthroughs are made regularly and millions are leading fulfilling lives, post-diagnosis.

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Today, we are brought you a story about how breast cancer survivor Rhonda Andrews has put knowledge gleaned from a Carroll Hospital oncology nutritionist — a rarity for a hospital — to good use. Eating well is important in the fight against cancer. We also brought you the story of how breast cancer survivor Cheryl D’Amario used exercise as a key component of fighting the disease, utilizing Carroll Hospital’s Embrace Wellness program. And we let you know about the local initiative to Paint Carroll Pink for the 20th year in a row and how, although the hospital’s Pink Fling luncheon had to be canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, the event instead became 31 days of community involvement to spread hope, encouragement, and awareness.

Another story in today’s section is far from uplifting, providing local and national statistics about how many people have skipped routine cancer screenings because of the pandemic. In the three-month span from the time COVID-19 really hit the United States in mid-March through mid-June, some 285,000 breast screenings, 95,000 colon screenings and 40,000 cervical exams were missed, according to Epic Health Research Network. Dr. Bertan Ozgun, a radiologist at Advanced Radiology, said only 50% of his patients have had their annual mammograms.

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“If people don’t get their mammograms and develop breast cancer in this time frame, it is possible the diagnosis will be delayed and treatment will be more complicated,” Ozgun said.

As we point out yearly at this time, the 5-year survival rate for women with invasive breast cancer is 90% and that number is closer to 99% if the cancer is located only in the breast, according to the American Cancer Society. That’s why regular screenings are so crucial, to catch the disease before it has spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body. Remember, LifeBridge Health is holding its fifth annual Mammoth on Nov. 12 at locations throughout Maryland including these in Carroll: The Center for Breast Health at Carroll Hospital and Advanced Radiology in Westminster, Advanced Radiology in Eldersburg and Community Radiology Associates in Mount Airy.

If we do nothing else each year with our attempts to raise awareness, we hope we can at least use this forum to serve as a reminder for people to get tested. For breast cancer. Colon cancer. Lung cancer. Whatever cancer each individual might be most at risk for based on lifestyle, genetics and age. So if you haven’t already done so, we urge you to consult with your physician and schedule your routine screenings today.

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