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COVID-19 has put many things on hold this year, but one thing it shouldn’t interrupt is preventative care. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and a great time to stay on top on your health and schedule a mammogram.
“Breast cancer screenings save lives, and it’s still important to go in for your mammogram this year even in the midst of the pandemic,” said Brittany McArthur, M.D., primary care physician with Cigna Medical Group. “Some women don’t show any signs or symptoms and the earlier breast cancer is detected, the better the outcome when treating the disease.”
Mammograms were down nearly 80 percent in April and nearly 25 percent in June compared to last year during the same time period, according to a recent report by the Health Care Cost Institute.
Despite these low numbers, an estimated 276,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in the U.S. this year alone.
“Unfortunately, cancer doesn’t stop for COVID,” said Dr. McArthur. “If you have any questions or concerns, talk to your doctor or the imaging facility when you call to schedule an appointment to see what they are doing to keep patients safe. This may help ease any fears.”
In addition to mammograms, Dr. McArthur recommends patients perform monthly self-breast exams and have a yearly physical exam with their physician. Typically, at the age of 40 women are recommended to get an annual mammogram; however, doctors may recommend patients begin mammograms earlier depending on their personal health history.
There are several risk factors that can increase chances of developing breast cancer. Some factors that cannot be controlled include: being female, age, family history, dense breast tissue, starting menstrual period early and going into menopause after the age of 55. Some risk factors that can be controlled include: alcohol use, being overweight and physically inactive.
Dr. McArthur shared that just because someone may have a risk factor does not mean they will develop the disease, and she says to talk to your doctor if you have any of risk factors or if you have any concerns.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has required us to make changes to our personal lives,” said Dr. McArthur. “As we look ahead, we must continue to be flexible and recognize that we need to care for ourselves so we can remain resilient and be our best for our family and friends.”
Cigna is here to help with personalized oncology support
At Cigna, we are committed to supporting our customers - body and mind - throughout their journey with cancer. Our oncology services offer personalized case management and behavioral support for some plans, including:
Dedicated nurse case manager who partners with the customer’s care team – doctors, pharmacists and behavioral coaches – to address the holistic needs of the customer. Nurse case managers can also guide the customer through their treatment, ensuring they are getting the appropriate care and following the treatment protocols and share information about how to manage a diagnosis and symptoms, including helping them understand their benefits. Nurse case managers can also set-up social support services to help remove any financial or social barriers such as food delivery and transportation.
Behavioral coaches who support customers dealing with anxiety, stress and/or depression. We know that nearly 20 percent of our oncology customers undergoing treatment have a diagnosed mental health condition – so, to help our oncology customers through this difficult diagnosis, counselors are available 24/7.
Pharmacy support from trained pharmacists who specialize on specific types of cancer conditions. They help customers fill their medications, navigate financial assistance, and managed their medication.
Additional support including two pilot programs that provide additional services such as caregiver support and guidance on palliative care.
To learn what oncology services and resources are available within your specific health plan, customers should visit MyCigna.com or call the customer service number on the back of their insurance card.