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Breast cancer survivor urges women to schedule missed mammograms

Breast cancer screenings fell by 58% during the pandemic. A breast cancer survivor is warning others to reschedule their missed screenings.

BELLEVUE, Wash. — As the world emerges from pandemic restrictions, a Bellevue wife and mother to two children is urging women to schedule their cancer screenings if they missed it due to the lockdown.

"Please schedule that mammogram, pandemic or not," Anna Morari said.

Morari was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in 2020 after she noticed a lump on her breast while feeding her infant son.

"I didn't even think cancer in my head. I mean, why? I'm 37 and a half, right?" Morari said.

But her instincts kicked in and Morari decided to get the lump checked at an urgent care clinic in Bellevue. An abnormal mammogram and a biopsy confirmed Morari had breast cancer.

"I remember I started shaking. I was in complete disbelief," Morari said.

Morari started treatment immediately and underwent a double mastectomy and chemotherapy. Since August last year, Morari has been in remission and cancer-free.

"Luckily, she jumped on it," said Dr. April Phantana-angkool, a breast surgical oncologist at Overlake Medical Center and Morari's doctor.

Phantana-angkool said she herself had noticed some patients delaying care or rescheduling breast cancer screenings during the onset of the pandemic. While screening appointments were temporarily closed at the beginning of the lockdown, appointments have been available for several months and patients are encouraged to schedule any missed screenings.

"We know that screening mammograms saves lives, so screening mammograms are able to find cancer at its smallest, earliest stage," Phantana-angkool said.

Breast cancer screening and mammograms fell by 58 percent during the pandemic, according to a study published in JAMA Network Open. The study also found a 49 percent decrease in screenings from 2019 to 2020 in hospitals, clinics and doctor's offices throughout Washington state.

Morari said she was able to fight her cancer because she caught it early enough.

"Had I waited until I was 40, it would have been too late," Morari said.

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