Health Care

Don’t Let Fear of COVID Open the Door to Breast Cancer, Officials Warn

Josie Dukes-Bland, RN, encouraged women to get mammograms despite fear of exposure to the coronavirus. (Photo by Solomon Crenshaw Jr.)

Jefferson County Commissioner Sheila Tyson hosted a press conference Wednesday to bring attention to breast cancer and the need — despite the pandemic — for persons to be tested for this disease.

The event, held in the gallery of the Jefferson County Courthouse, was intended as a reminder that fear of COVID-19 or the vaccines created to fend it off should not be reasons to forego a mammogram.

“The coronavirus and breast cancer both are potentially deadly diseases,” said registered nurse Josie Dukes-Bland. “But you do not have to choose one over the other when it comes to treatment and diagnosis.”

Dukes-Bland said diagnoses of breast cancer were down 52% between March 1 and April 18, 2020. She said there is fear of a “tsunami effect,” with a huge surge in breast cancer diagnoses.

“What I’ve seen more is fear — the fear of the virus, the vaccine and not knowing,” the nurse said. “What we’re trying to do is educate people on the vaccine, that it’s OK to get it. Because of that fear of the vaccine, they’re not getting the mammogram, either. That is one of the big issues that we’re seeing.”

Beth Bradner Davis, executive director of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation of Alabama, echoed that sentiment.

“I know some people are hesitant to have mammograms,” she said, citing concerns over the virus and getting the vaccine. “Our message is that people can (get vaccinated) safely through (use of) masks.”

As for mammograms, early detection is crucial, Bradner Davis said.

“Early detection is key to successful outcomes,” she said. “Whenever people can go in and find breast cancer in early stages, the impact is always more positive. It’s key to get your mammograms, do your self exams and get treatment and don’t be scared.”

Tyson noted that some number of persons choose not to get a breast exam because they are unemployed or underemployed and don’t have the money. Brenda’s Brown Bosom Buddies and three chapters of Links Inc. hope to minimize that concern by providing 145 free mammograms.

The Magic City Chapter of Links is providing 25 mammograms at UAB, and the Birmingham Chapter of Links is offering 10 at Brookwood Women’s Diagnostic Center and 10 between the two campuses of St. Vincent’s Hospital. The Tri-County Alabama Chapter of Links is partnering with BBVA to provide 100 mammograms at Princeton Baptist Medical Center.

Brenda’s Brown Bosom Buddies founder Brenda P. Hong presented a $500 check to Beth Bradner Davis, executive director of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation of Alabama (Photo by Solomon Crenshaw Jr.)

The Housing Authority of the Birmingham District and the Housing Authority of the city of Bessemer are pitching in to get the word of the free mammograms to their residents. Forge Breast Cancer Survivor Center is also helping to publicize the effort.

The Tr-County tests are via vouchers available at Bama Foods at 1923 Bessemer Road. Information on the free mammograms is available by calling Brenda’s Brown Bosom Buddies at (205) 588-0703.

BBBB founder Brenda P. Hong presented a $500 check to Breast Cancer Research Foundation of Alabama. Tyson said her office will contribute $2,000 to the cancer research foundation.