As cases of COVID-19 were beginning to rise in Minnesota in early April, Carol Carpenter found a lump on her breast that caused her concern. She scheduled a mammogram the next day, and remembers feeling apprehensive before the appointment, both about the exam results and visiting a clinic during the pandemic.
Results showed that Carpenter, after having a normal mammogram only months earlier, had breast cancer. In a matter of weeks, she underwent surgery and is now back home, thankful that scans now show that her cancer is gone.
“Before I went in, I was nervous. It was the first time I had ever gone to the hospital for something like that,” she said. “But I was treated so well and guided along the way the whole time, and it felt actually like the safest place I could be.”
An executive order issued by Minnesota Governor Tim Walz in March temporarily delayed elective procedures across the state, but care providers continued performing critical procedures that could not be safely delayed without negatively affecting patients’ health. Now that data shows Minnesota is in a position to cautiously resume elective procedures, M Health Fairview’s breast imaging clinics are contacting patients to reschedule routine mammograms that were postponed.
“We know that most lives are saved from breast cancer with annual mammograms starting at age 40,” said M Health Fairview Radiologist Jessica Kuehn-Hajder, who specializes in breast imaging. “I understand when a patient tells me they were hesitant to come into the clinic. Once they’re here, though, they see how safe we’ve made this space. We’re encouraging every patient who is due for a mammogram to call us so we can work together to come up with a care plan that is best for each person.”
We are slowly increasing the number of appointments available while maintaining the highest degree of safety for our patients and staff. Every patient who would like to see their provider for a mammogram can now schedule an appointment, but patients with urgent needs for imaging and other care will be prioritized in the schedule.
If you have a medical condition that puts you at higher risk, please speak with your primary provider before making an appointment. In some cases, providers will recommend virtual care visits or discuss other scheduling solutions.
Our care teams are making every effort to ensure safety for our patients and staff.
Carpenter and her doctor are continually monitoring her health through virtual care appointments and in-person visits when necessary. She says that watching her own health closely, and going into the clinic when she needed to, probably saved her life.
“Cancer is not something you’d ever want to get,” she said. “But I’m glad it happened the way that it did.”