Following up on a national story we shared last week about women putting off a mammogram right now because of concerns over COVID-19, this week I visited the Mary Lou Beshears Breast Care Center in Colorado Springs to see the measures they have in place to keep their patients safe.
Lisa Allison, MS, RN, is the breast imaging manager for UCHealth Memorial, and says they are running at about 75% total capacity right now. The goal is that by July 1st, the clinic will be at 80 to 85% capacity.
As far as women in southern Colorado being mindful about their mammograms, Lisa says, "We see people on two ends of the spectrum: Either people cannot wait to come in and get their screening and mammogram done, or people who are still very fearful of being out in public."
Through the pandemic, the clinic has followed guidance from the American College of Radiology and the Society of Breast Imagers to determine the critical patients who needed to be seen during the early stages of the pandemic in Colorado. Those guidelines have been kept in place, now that health maintenance and prevention services - which mammography is - have been fully re-opened in Colorado.
Lisa explains, “We have expanded our hours, so that we can continue to see more people, but spread over a longer period of time. We have always had strict infection prevention guidelines in place, and we clean between every single individual that comes into our exam rooms. Now we are also paying special attention, and extra careful attention, to touchable surfaces. Things like pens when people are checking in and signing in, countertops, chairs, cushions and coat hooks. All those little touchable surfaces that didn't necessarily get cleaned after every single patient - they do now. We also require that everyone wear a mask when they come see us, and we're limiting visitors in our outpatient areas.”
Besides extending their hours, they have made it possible for scheduling and check-in to be streamlined as well. Lisa says, “We are using other procedures to help keep people safe. If you have an active “My Health Connection” account you can schedule appointments and check in online before you come. That streamlines the check-in and registration process and limits the number of people who are waiting in our waiting rooms. That process is the same for many of our clinics, not just for breast imaging.
Lisa adds that patients are also given COVID-19 screenings. “We are screening every individual, both at the time of scheduling and at the time of registration for symptoms. Individuals who present with symptoms to any health prevention and maintenance service appointments, like screening mammography, are being asked to reschedule.”
The American College of Radiology [acraccreditation.org] recommends that all women over the age 40 get mammograms once a year and the American Cancer Society [cancer.org] says breast cancers that are found in the early stages have almost a 99% cure rate.
If you are concerned about the possibility of contracting COVID-19, which may be life threatening, you can’t ignore the possibility that not catching breast cancer in its early stages can also be deadly.
Lisa says, “Most breast cancers can't be felt when they're in their early stages, and mammography is the best way to see those early-stage cancers and changes within the breast so that we can take care of those early.”
If you have concerns or questions, or if you would like to schedule a mammogram with UCHealth, you can contact the Mary Lou Beshears Breast Care Center in Colorado Springs by calling 719-365-2900, or visit them on-line at [ https://www.uchealth.org/locations/uchealth-mary-lou-beshears-breast-care-center-printers-park/ [uchealth.org]
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