As the U.S. deals with a resurgence of COVID-19 spread, it's understandable that attention is shifting back in the direction of precautions such as limiting interpersonal contacts. However, medical experts note that delaying critical healthcare, such as breast cancer treatment, could cost patients valuable time. Cancer screenings and mammograms are equally important for early detection purposes and physicians are recommending annual screenings as necessary.
"Survey findings published recently in the journal Breast Cancer Research and Treatment suggest that nearly half of breast cancer patients have delayed care during the pandemic," said Brian H. Chon, M.D., medical director at ProCure Proton Therapy Center in Somerset, where physicians use precisely targeted proton therapy radiation treatments as an alternative to standard radiation.
"That alarms me as a physician who treats breast cancer patients. Thanks to screening mammography, most breast cancer today are detected early with an excellent prognosis. But the time window is not unlimited, and when a patient delays care the risk increases that cancer will spread beyond the breast and make successful treatment more difficult."
The relative risks of COVID-19 vs. delaying cancer care of course vary with factors such as age and other underlying medical conditions—all of which should be discussed collaboratively among a breast cancer patient's primary care and oncology providers. However, safety measures that medical practices implement to minimize infection risk are an important consideration.
"At ProCure, we have comprehensive procedures in place that enable breast cancer patients to receive care with confidence, from enhanced cleaning protocols and social distancing practices to mask requirements and screenings for every patient and staff member entering our facility," said Tom Wang, president, ProCure Proton Therapy Center. "Additionally, our Center is an active supporter of the local American Cancer Society and Susan G. Komen events, in support of breast cancer prevention, research, and finding a cure."
Dr. Chon added that the choice of treatment is an important consideration as well.
"As the most advanced form of radiation therapy available, proton therapy targets breast tumors with a precision that reduces radiation exposure to healthy tissues," he said. "That means fewer side effects that could require additional medical care and, by extension, more contacts at a time when it remains wise to minimize contacts. With breast cancer, timely care is vital, but so is choosing the right form of care."
About ProCure Proton Therapy Center
ProCure Proton Therapy Center in Somerset, NJ, opened in March 2012 as the tri-state region's first proton therapy facility, treating a range of cancers including disease of the prostate, breast, lung, brain, head and neck, and gastrointestinal system, as well as sarcomas and many pediatric cases. Using the most advanced radiation treatment available, proton therapy at ProCure enables many cancer patients to choose a non-surgical treatment personalized to their medical needs and lifestyles, often with fewer side effects and less downtime—giving them more freedom to enjoy what matters most in their lives.