The report, based on interviews conducted in September and October 2020, found that the impact of Covid-19 has drastically reduced access to breast units, but at the same time it has pushed the adoption of measures to maximize safety for patients and women undergoing a mammogram.
Düsseldorf, 26th November 2020
During the first phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, countries across Europe suspended breast cancer screening programs due to the closure of breast units in hospitals.
As a result, many women with breast cancer symptoms decided not to go to the doctor and have been unable to undergo mammography screening. In some areas, the number of the patients who had mammograms has decreased by more than two thirds.
Depending on the lockdown periods, which differed from country to country, the European breast units were closed one after the other, first in Italy, then in all the other countries. Screening units in hospitals across Europe have had to quickly introduce new protocols to safeguard work and patient safety. The staff has been equipped with all the safety devices and the spaces have been designed to always guarantee social distancing and to avoid the risk of contagion. Across Europe, women’s health services have reorganized to face the challenge of COVID-19, showing an exemplary and effective attitude to change. Even after the lockdown in Europe ended, many women did not attend when screening programs restarted, for fear of contracting the Coronavirus. However, we know that breast cancer screening can save lives, and a number of studies conducted by some leading research institutions suggest that stopping screening could result in an increase in the percentage of women who will die of breast cancer in the future.
To understand this changing in scenario, we have invited influential voices in the European breast cancer screening landscape to contribute to a report that would focus on the current situation in breast units. We asked them to tell us how the impact of the pandemic has demanded new models of working and changes in their relationships with their patients.
“From the interviews carried out, a common thread emerges, namely the rapid response to the new safety needs imposed by the pandemic.” says Eiji Ogawa, VP Modality Solutions, Quality Assurance and Regulatory Affairs Medical Systems Division FUJIFILM Europe GmbH “To ensure service to patients, breast units have adopted new procedures and reformulated operations. All this was ensured at a time when health systems around the world are under pressure from the Covid-19 pandemic. The screening time has been redesigned to allow women to break down the barrier of fear and thus keep the appointment with prevention. We would like to thank the healthcare professionals for having responded to our appeal, supporting us in the preparation of this report, but above all, for the tireless work they are carrying out in this period.”
Now that the second phase of the pandemic is underway in Europe, the resumption and maintenance of screening programs is essential, because breast cancer will not wait for the end of the pandemic, and the breast units are ready to play their crucial role in prevention.