Pandemic and Recent Events Create New Challenges for Breast Cancer Patients;
Susan G. Komen®, the world’s leading breast cancer organization, is calling for this year’s National Breast Cancer Awareness Month to change from a month focused on awareness to a month of action in support of the nearly 280,000 women and men who will be diagnosed with breast cancer in the U.S. this year alone, many who will likely be diagnosed with more advanced cancers and facing greater financial challenges due to the global pandemic.
Komen noted that after more than three decades of increased access to early detection and more effective treatments, mortality rates have decreased by 40 percent since 1989 – progress that is in jeopardy without the support of the breast cancer community to help those facing the disease today.
“Breast cancer is not cancelled,” said Paula Schneider, a breast cancer survivor and Komen’s CEO. “Yet due to the global coronavirus pandemic’s effect on health systems and the economy, more people than ever are encountering challenges in accessing and continuing needed care. Many are scared to get screened or see a doctor. Others have suddenly become uninsured and are facing new financial challenges. The pandemic has also highlighted tragic racial disparities that also exist with breast cancer, as Black women are 40 percent more likely to die from the disease than white women.”
Komen noted that prior to the pandemic, more than 42,000 women and men were expected to die this year from breast cancer in the U.S. alone. Without action, that number is likely to increase in the future. We don’t know the full impact of COVID-19 for breast cancer patients yet, but we do know we need to do more.
- According to NCI projections, the result of pandemic-related delays in diagnosis and treatment disruption is likely to cause about 10,000 additional deaths from breast cancer and colorectal cancer over the next 10 years.
- Researchers in Massachusetts have reported that during the first three months of the pandemic (March-May), diagnostic and screening mammograms decreased over 80%.
- Additionally, these researchers reported a 50% decrease in visits to primary care physicians, as well as disruptions in cancer care, such as delayed appointments and lab work.
People need help to get to care, to stay in treatment, and to have access to accurate information. As breast cancer patients’ trusted partner, Komen provides support through services such as a free Breast Care Helpline, which provides emotional support in addition to guidance to national and local resources. Komen’s Treatment Assistance Program helps pay for expenses that may serve as a financial barrier to receiving the care patients need to live longer, better lives. And through a combination of research, community health programs and advocacy, Komen is working to save lives from breast cancer and ensure that where a person lives and what they look like doesn’t determine whether they live.
“In a single moment, a person’s life changes forever – there is life before breast cancer, and life after,” noted Schneider. “This October, as part of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we will be asking people to take a moment to make a difference, by getting checked, making healthy choices, encouraging loved ones to take care of their breast health, or by supporting our work to save lives by making a generous donation. Together, we will save lives and get us closer to achieving a world without breast cancer.”