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A cancer screening during COVID-19 may have saved our member’s life

By Emilie Poplett | February 16, 2021 | 2 min read | Healthy Lifestyle, Coronavirus

Doctor holds scan from mammogram. Text overlay reads "We resolve to make health care better."

When Laura went in for an annual check-up, she had no reason to suspect that anything was wrong.

“It was just a routine mammogram,” she said. “Then I got a call from the doctor telling me I had to come back, that they had seen something suspicious. I prayed a lot that weekend, for peace, strength to face whatever was ahead, and that everything would be fine.”

But instinct was telling her that everything wouldn’t be fine. She’d had an abnormal mammogram years earlier that turned out to be nothing. But this time, she said, “it felt different.”

Laura, one of our Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC) members, returned to the clinic a few days later for a biopsy. That same day, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

The diagnosis came on September 1, 2020, just before COVID-19 cases began to spike again in the United States. Laura would have to undergo chemotherapy in the middle of the pandemic, as if chemo wasn’t hard enough on its own.

“Every three weeks it was new side effects, exhaustion, just experiencing things I have never really dealt with, and it was hard,” Laura said. “But I had good friends, family, a support system that tried to ease the struggles.”
She also had a medical team that helped her stay safe—and feel safe—from COVID-19.

“I have never been afraid to go to the doctor or hospital,” she said. “I feel like the offices and hospitals have followed all the protocols, so I felt safe.”

Laura smiling in front of the ocean. Text overlay shows a cancer ribbon with the words "stronger than cancer."

Not everyone has felt comfortable returning to the doctor’s office during the pandemic. More than two-thirds of Americans say they or someone in their household delayed or cancelled medical care because of COVID-19,  and cancer screenings were no exception. Through May of 2020, breast cancer screenings dropped by 89%. Screenings for colon, lung and prostate cancer also dropped by up to 75% between March and July 2020.

Of course, the world doesn’t stop for COVID-19, and neither does cancer.

Don't delay care.

Screenings play an important role in detecting cancer and other health problems early. If you’re due for a routine screening, don’t delay care. Call your doctor’s office to schedule an appointment and learn more about the measures they’re taking to keep you safe.

Laura’s decision to keep her appointment on the calendar might have saved her life.

“If I had waited to get screened—and I was a year behind on my mammo screening—things might have been much worse,” she said. “I would tell someone who is nervous or scared, don’t be. The routine screenings are so important. Go get the test or screening, and ask questions! You have to take charge of your own health care.”

Laura did just that, and she completed chemotherapy on January 20, 2021. She is thankful for her family and her faith, which she said kept her going through a difficult year.

“I have had moments of fear, doubt, insecurity, but overall, God has been faithful and kept me strong throughout the process,” she said.

Now she looks forward to regaining her strength and re-growing her hair. As Laura celebrates the end of chemo with her husband, sister (a fellow breast cancer survivor), kids and parents, we at Blue Cross NC encourage you to call your doctor to discuss how you can take care of your health this year.