The Director of Rambam’s Breast Health Institute urges: “Even during the time of coronavirus, please come and be examined.”
Dr. Aviad Hoffman, Director of the Breast Health Institute at Rambam Health Care Campus, is gravely concerned that COVID-19 will inflict a heavy medical toll in areas completely unrelated to the virus. As a result, he has issued an urgent public warning to women to be screened for breast cancer and to undergo necessary testing for early detection of the disease. He made this call against the backdrop of Breast Cancer Awareness Month (October 1-31, 2020), based on lessons learned during the first wave of coronavirus infections in Israel and the national shutdown that took place earlier this year from March to May.
During that time, there was a significant reduction in the number of people seeking routine medical examinations and widespread deferral of medical treatment. “Neglecting one’s health is not an option, even if it results from fears about the coronavirus,” states Dr. Hoffman. “People need to take personal responsibility for their health, and to arrive at their clinic or the hospital to obtain necessary medical care. The public must understand that in the case of breast cancer, early detection means life.”
In an open letter to the public (set forth, in full, below), Dr. Hoffman explains that this message is now more important than ever:
“There isn’t a person on earth who has not been affected by COVID-19. The changes have impacted every aspect of our lives, but the ramifications for our health care are especially dramatic.
As members of Rambam’s medical staff, we are witnesses to the catastrophic injury and suffering resulting from the failure to obtain essential medical screening, diagnoses, treatments, and follow-up care. There is a fear of leaving the house; fear of going to the hospital; fear of going to the imaging lab, and even a fear of contact with the medical staff.
The situation is even more perilous for women already at high risk because of health issues, or a previous or current breast cancer diagnosis. Many of these women are now conflicted as to whether to obtain their annual mammogram, whether to keep their appointment with their physician, or whether to delay planned surgeries.
The fear of obtaining life-saving examinations and treatments at hospitals and clinics was exacerbated because, at the outset of the pandemic, health systems all over the world curtailed elective medical procedures, and only allowed the most critical medical procedures and operations to move forward. As a result, vital medical screenings and examinations were delayed or canceled, surgeries were delayed, and the prevailing attitude among both patients and physicians was that ‘we will return to our normal routine once the storm passes.’ But the storm has not passed—it has become the new normal.
Breast cancer is most prevalent among women, and as a result, it affects millions of families all over the world. One of the most effective strategies for dealing with breast cancer is the use of early detection modalities, most notably mammography. In contrast to many other diseases, in the case of breast cancer, early detection saves lives.
Delaying annual mammograms, even because of fears of the coronavirus, is not advised. There is no reason to be afraid that a visit to the breast care clinic or mammography institute poses an increased risk of infection. There is also no reason to fear a visit to the hospital for testing or surgery. The true danger comes from delay in failing to obtain necessary medical care.”
In solidarity with Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Rambam recently illuminated the hospital’s iconic Stone Building in pink, an annual tradition carried out around the world.