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News 8's Shannon Handy shares her first mammogram experience

Doctors are encouraging women to get the annual exam, after cancer screenings dropped 94% during the pandemic.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — Doctors nationwide are encouraging women to get their annual mammograms, saying exams have dropped significantly since the pandemic started.

“Some of the national data suggests that in March of 2020, screenings fell off by 94%. That had to do specifically with breast, colon and cervical cancer screenings,” said Dr. Thomas Buchholz, Medical Director of the Scripps MD Anderson Cancer Center.

News 8’s Shannon Handy went in for her first mammogram Tuesday at the Polster Breast Care Center at Scripps MD Anderson in La Jolla.

Having just turned 40 years old, a mammogram is something doctors say women her age should consider doing every year.

According to Shannon, the process wasn't painful and was completed in about 10 minutes. 

Doctors say because fewer women are going in for their mammograms, cancer is being detected later on when it's less likely to survive.

"There have been modeling studies nationally that estimate because of the decreased screening, we're putting nearly 10,000 lives at risk over the next 10-year interval because people are now being diagnosed with more advanced cancer stages," said Dr. Buchholz.

As for Shannon’s mammogram, she said it wasn't scheduled for the sake of a news story.

She chose to share her experience because, for her, breast cancer hits close to home.

Shannon’s mom is a breast cancer survivor. Sadly, her grandmother and great-grandmother both died from the disease.

On Sunday, Shannon and other News 8 employees will be taking part in the Komen "More Than Pink" walk, which News 8 sponsors.

There, she’ll be honoring her family and advocating for early detection.

“The death rates from breast cancer are going down every year.  But, we need to be able to intervene early,” said Dr. Buchholz.

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