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Taking charge of breast health: Dr. Amy Patel advocates regular screening

BY NAISHA ROY

Atlanta, GA, November 5, 2021: Dr. Amy Patel, MD, is a breast cancer specialist who recently focused on promoting the American Cancer Society’s nationwide effort called “Return to Screening.” The campaign emphasizes educating women on the importance of returning to breast cancer screenings after the CDC lifted its restrictions due to COVID.

Patel spoke about her inspiration to continue research in the field. “I’ve always had a passion for women’s health from a very early age,” she said. “I did a rotation with a breast radiologist, and I really fell in love with the field.”

Patel is avidly involved with the campaign, which focuses on the importance of getting screened for several types of cancer, specifically mammograms. Screenings are still down 13% in the United States, which can prove dangerous for many unaware patients. Patel referred to these as “lifesaving screenings,” because the sooner a cancer is diagnosed, the better likelihood of it being in an earlier, more treatable stage.

“Regardless of gender, we should be taking charge of our breast health, truly understanding our breast composition, truly understanding if there is something wrong […] we should be investigating it and being an advocate for ourselves,” Patel added.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, cancer screenings faced a huge low as many centers were understaffed and overwhelmed. However, with restrictions being lifted and many centers reopening, the American Cancer Society urges people to schedule their yearly screenings.

Screenings are imperative because they look for cancer in those that do not show symptoms; in other words, there is no way of knowing whether a seemingly healthy individual has latent cancer without them. 

The campaign stepped it up this past month as October was Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but Patel emphasizes the importance of focusing on Breast Cancer Awareness all throughout the year.

“It’s important to relay to our patients that the act of coming in to get your mammogram, lifesaving screenings, doesn’t just stop in October. We have to make a concerted effort all year round. If you are a patient that usually has their mammogram in February, make sure that you are going every February to get your annual screening mammogram,” she urged.

The screening rate went down almost 90% at the onset of the pandemic, and the American Cancer Society predicts this will lead to a predicted 3,000 excess deaths from breast cancer by 2022. In order to lower this seemingly daunting statistic, the Return to Screening campaign prioritizes spreading information about the importance of screenings to local health centers.

Patel also stressed the importance of talking to physicians if individuals see anything wrong, and discussed having physicians that the patient could relate to and was comfortable with.

“Where I grew up there weren’t a lot of women physicians and there weren’t a lot of women of color, period, let alone women of color physicians,” Patel explained. “More and more studies are showing that there are better outcomes for patients…if they see physicians that look like them and they can relate to. And, physicians of color tend to have better outcomes with their patients if they’re also of color… we can get through to them more.”

Those waiting on their annual mammogram and other essential cancer screenings should schedule them as soon as possible to safeguard their health. For more information, individuals can check out Dr. Patel’s website or the American Cancer Society website.

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