MILWAUKEE — Since the height of the pandemic in April of 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports an 87% decline in breast cancer screenings.
Leslie Krueger, a 46-year-old piano teacher from Glendale, is thanking her lucky stars this month and urging all women to go in for their routine screenings.
In January of 2021, Leslie promised her two sons that she would take them sledding after she returned from her doctor's appointment.
"But that didn't happen because I spent six hours at the clinic," said Leslie.
Leslie went in for a routine mammogram at Aurora Health Center in Germantown and after a series of tests, she learned that she had Stage 1 breast cancer.
"That appointment led to an ultrasound, the ultrasound led to a biopsy and the biopsy led to a Stage 1 diagnosis," Leslie said.
Overcoming the initial fear, Leslie believes the diagnosis empowered her to fight.
"If I would have postponed that appointment, maybe I would not have gotten a second chance at life," she said.
The CDC believes that the decline in screenings could lead to severe consequences, warning that we could see a wave of undetected cancer cases.
Dr. Joseph Weber, a Breast Surgical Oncologist at Aurora Medical Center Grafton, believes the decline is a result of the pandemic. He saw many of his patients were hesitant to step back into hospitals and clinics.
"As more and more patients get vaccinated, we know that it's safe to return back to the hospitals. Screening mammograms are the best way to prevent and catch breast cancer early," says Dr. Weber.
Early detection changed the trajectory of Leslie's life. With surgery and chemotherapy behind her, she is expected to make a full recovery.
"We have cancer, but cancer does not have us," says Leslie.