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COVID Complicates Breast Cancer Screenings

Members of the Tallahassee Police Department brought their specially-decorated patrol vehicle to the Tallahassee Memorial Cancer Center and joined the staff there for a photo.
Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. That's leading to local partnerships to promote awareness. And the rising combination of cancer and COVID treatments means more challenges for health care providers.

A Tallahassee Police cruiser pulled up in front of the Tallahassee Memorial Cancer Center recently. Administrator of Oncology Services Kathy Brooks and the other center staff could have been concerned. But instead, she said, they were overjoyed when they saw the cruiser and rooftop accessory it sported.

"So it's a big pink ribbon on the top of that police car and it's all there for Breast Cancer Awareness Month," she explained.

Even beyond her duties at the Center, Brooks is more aware of breast cancer than many folks. She's a survivor. And she noted there are a growing number of survivors just like her. The reason? More women are sharing the awareness.

"It's a conglomerate of things that are happening to really put a cancer out there that is survivable and I think that's really what it's all about."

But now there's a new complication. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, too many women are reluctant to enter any medical facility. Brooks said those concerns are misplaced.

"Most of the facilities now are taking lots of precautions to screen anybody who comes in the facility so they can ensure that they're only letting people in that safely can come in the door to get their screening mammograms. Early detection is the key to surviving this terrible disease. So we would say, 'Go get your mammogram.'"

It's a message that Brooks said she can't stress enough.

"(There are) incredible safety measures that we have taken, particularly here at the Cancer Center. We're really screening every patient who comes in the door. Everybody is wearing masks. We've purchased a UV cleaning system that allows for some special cleaning throughout the Cancer Center so that we can ensure everyone's safety."

But Brooks said one thing is in shorter supply. That's the extra money needed to provide services to cancer patients who, because of a concurrent COVID condition, will have be given care in isolation. Which is why the hospital has a mechanism for raising those funds.

"I think there's ways to make donations through the Tallahassee Memorial Foundation that will go straight back to our patients and provide resources for them."

Meanwhile, the incidence of coronavirus infection is still on an upward trend, both statewide and in the Capital City region.

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