BELLEVUE, Washington – As the world comes out of pandemic restrictions, a Bellevue woman and mother of two is urging women to schedule their cancer screening 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 noticing a lump on her breast while feeding her baby boy.
“I didn’t even think about cancer in my head. I mean, why? I’m 37 and a half, right?” said Morari.
But her instincts kicked in and Morari decided to have the lump checked out at an urgent care clinic in Bellevue. An abnormal mammogram and biopsy confirmed that Morari had breast cancer.
“I remember starting to shake. I was in complete disbelief,” Morari said.
Morari immediately began treatment and underwent a double mastectomy and chemotherapy. Morari has been in remission and cancer-free since August last year.
“Luckily, she jumped on it,” said Dr. April Phantana-angkool, a breast surgical oncologist at Overlake Medical Center and Morari’s physician.
Phantana-angkool said she herself noticed that some patients were delaying care or delaying breast cancer screenings during the onset of the pandemic. Although screening appointments were temporarily closed at the start of the lockdown, appointments have been available for several months and patients are encouraged to schedule missed screenings.
“We know that screening mammograms saves lives, so screening mammograms can find cancer at its smallest, earliest stage,” Phantana-angkool said.
Breast cancer screening and mammograms fell 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 at Washington state hospitals, clinics and doctor’s offices.
Morari said she was able to fight her cancer because she caught it early enough.
“If I had waited until I was 40, it would have been too late,” Morari said.