Do Not Let COVID Stop You from Your Annual Mammogram


With all of the attention rightfully given to COVID-19, don’t forget to give attention to your other health needs. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month to remind women that one in every eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. But a diagnosis doesn’t have to be severely life-altering, says Palomar Health Breast Care Nurse Navigator, Jyl Delarosa, RN, MSN.

“When we find the cancer early, the outcome is generally good. The earlier the better.”

That’s why it’s recommended that women over age 40 (or earlier if there is a strong family history of breast cancer) have a screening mammogram every year and when you feel or see something unusual at any age. The process usually starts with your physician referring you to a women’s center, like Palomar Health’s Jean McLaughlin Center in Poway, where you will have your breasts imaged. The process is much more manageable now than in years past.

“It may be uncomfortable for some but not painful and it’s temporary,” Delarosa said. The entire procedure takes about 10 minutes.

It’s important to get an annual screening mammogram because you may not feel anything different. Delarosa says you may be walking around with cancer and not realize it. If you wait until you feel something unusual, you may have missed your opportunity for a good outcome.

“We find them (cancerous cells) as small as 3 millimeters,” Delarosa says.

The Jean McLaughlin Center performs approximately 6,000 mammograms a year and recently invested more than $1 million in two 3D breast imaging systems and a biopsy system. The machines are ergonomically designed for comfort and can identify more types of breast changes and earlier than traditional mammography units. If a tumor is discovered early enough you may only need a lumpectomy (partial removal) instead of a mastectomy (total removal).

In the unfortunate event you are diagnosed with cancer through a mammogram and confirmed with a biopsy (where a small breast tissue sample is examined by a pathologist), Delarosa will navigate you through the comprehensive process of meeting with a breast surgeon, medical oncologist, radiation oncologist and plastic surgeon, if reconstruction is necessary.

Delarosa is an educator, care coordinator and advocate. She walks patients through the next steps, explains treatment options, discusses tests, explains diagnoses and reviews family history.

When a woman is unsure about any treatment, she encourages discussion with the clinical team before following through. She is dedicated to serving her patients and the women of the community.

The silver lining is that breast surgery (lumpectomy) is generally well tolerated with a short recovery period of about one week, Delarosa said. Lumpectomies are performed in an outpatient setting and you can go home the same day. If the tumor is small enough the patient may not even notice a difference in their breast afterwards. Mastectomies require an overnight stay. Some choose an implant, others opt to go without.

As always, Delarosa says it is best to lower your risk for breast cancer by living a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise, no smoking, limited alcohol use, a well-balanced diet, managed emotional stress and quality sleep.

For more information about lifestyle modification, go to

To speak with Jyl Delarosa, call 858-613-6115 or email

Photo caption: Mammograms can detect cancerous cells as small as 3 millimeters. 

A 3D mammogram machine at the Jean McLaughlin Women's Center.

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