“I can’t wait to get my mammogram, especially in the midst of a highly contagious pandemic,” said no woman ever.
And yet, there I was in an exam room at Roswell Park’s Breast Imaging Center in August 2020, the summer of COVID, and strangely, I felt calmer than usual. But I wondered, is it safe to get a mammogram during COVID-19?
“Yes, it is safe to get a mammogram during COVID-19, provided that both the patient and the facility have taken proper precautions to make the visit as risk-free as possible,” says Marie Quinn, MD, Director of Breast Imaging. “At Roswell Park, we’ve spent many hours redesigning our workflow, adjusting our procedures in accordance with New York State and CDC COVID guidelines, implementing scheduling best practices and revised cleaning protocols and more, and then communicating this information to our patients and their caregivers.”
COVID or not, we advise patients that if they feel a lump, experience breast changes or have other concerning symptoms, do not hesitate to call us to make an appointment. You do not need to be a current Roswell Park patient to be seen at our clinic.
Cancer Won’t Wait
Initially, Roswell Park's Breast Imaging Center staff called every person scheduled for a routine mammogram in the spring (myself included) and “unless there was some pressing need, such as any breast-related symptoms, the appointments were rescheduled out six to eight weeks,” says Dr. Quinn.
In addition, anyone at high risk for breast cancer should continue to move forward with any doctor-recommended appointments.. “If you have other health and immunity concerns, please call us or your primary care doctor to discuss the risks versus benefits of having a mammogram or breast screening,” says Dr. Quinn.
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Changes in Mammography Procedures
By mid-May, Roswell Park re-opened routine appointments that had been postponed and is now up to full speed. Yes, you do still need your annual mammogram. Yes, it is safe to get yours at Roswell Park. Some of the new procedures in the Breast Imaging Center include:
- Completing the patient breast history form online. A few days before your appointment, you’ll receive an email or text with a link to a digital health form to fill out and send to the center electronically. This eliminates extra time in a waiting room and the use of shared clipboards, tablets and other items. (Sure enough, I received an email with a link to this form a few days before my appointment and all of my information was on file at the center when I arrived.)
- Entering through the Main Hospital Entrance. Everyone now enters Roswell Park through a limited number of entrances, where they receive a temperature check, a fresh mask and a quick wellness screening. Each entrance also offers a hand-sanitizing station.
- Reduced waiting room time. Appointments are scheduled to reduce the number of people in the center at the same time, and the seating is arranged to adhere to physical distancing guidelines. Please arrive on time, and no more than 15 minutes early. (I waited only a few minutes before my appointment, with only one other person in the very large waiting room.)
- Frequent cleaning in common areas. The furniture and surfaces in all common areas are wiped down on a regular basis. Even small details, like providing separate bins for pens, both unused and unused, have been attended to.
- Changing rooms and lockers are no longer used. Instead, after my vital signs were taken, I was immediately brought to the mammography exam room, where the technologist was waiting for me. Together, we reviewed my information and she left the room so that I could change into my gown.
- Sanitized imaging machines. All imaging machines have always been sanitized before and after each use, but it’s nice to know just the same. Additionally, both my technologist and I wore masks the entire time, and my technologist put on a new pair of gloves before touching me or any of the machine surfaces.
- No waiting for results. To eliminate additional time spent in waiting rooms, patients are called with their results later in the day or the next business day. “The majority of screening mammograms are normal, and 92% of women will not need to come back for additional imaging,” Dr. Quinn notes.
How Patients Can Help
Patients also can help their mammogram appointments go safely and smoothly by following a few simple guidelines.
- Check our website before your visit to review any COVID-related updates.
- Call to reschedule if you are not feeling well on the day of your appointment, if you have a temperature, a cold or flu-like symptoms, or if you have been exposed to anyone with COVID.
- Be on time for your appointment to eliminate back-ups and extra time spent in the waiting and exam rooms. Please arrive no earlier than 15 minutes before your scheduled appointment.
- Wear a clean mask, frequently wash your hands and observe physical distancing guidelines throughout your visit.
“We safely screened a record number of patients in our clinic in July and will continue to accommodate every person who needs a mammogram, even during the time of COVID,” says Dr. Quinn. “Our experts in breast imaging specialize in the detection of breast cancer, and early detection saves lives.”
The COVID-19 situation is evolving rapidly. To read the latest information on Roswell Park’s response and find additional resources, visit our Coronavirus (COVID-19) web page.Learn More