Memorial Hermann rolls out breast cancer prevention program as screening rates plummet


As Breast Cancer Awareness Month begins, Jessica Jones, assistant professor of oncology at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth and an attending physician at Memorial Hermann Cancer Center, is working to get the word out to women that it is never too early to work toward preventing breast cancer.

“It’s important to dispel the fear surrounding mammograms during COVID-19 because some frightening statistics are coming our way with mammograms down by 86 percent,” Jones said.


An IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science report published in April shows that a reduction of cancer screenings in the three months leading up to June 5 may have resulted in 36,000 delayed breast cancer diagnoses in the United States.

“We have missed 36,000 (cases) of breast cancer already so this breast cancer awareness month is more important than ever,” Jones said.

Coincidentally, Memorial Hermann recently rolled out its Breast Cancer Prevention Program at both the Texas Medical Center and UT Physicians Multispecialty Clinic-Bayshore as less women get screened for breast cancer due to COVID-19.

The Breast Cancer Prevention Program specializes in treating women who have higher risks of breast cancer with medication and additional screening. The program has been in the works for one year due to women getting less and less breast cancer screenings, Jones said. Although it’s currently only at two locations, the program is available for patients of any Memorial Hermann hospital in the Houston area.

“Research has shown that with medication, MRIs and mammograms we can effectively reduce breast cancer risks by 50 percent and curative rate, if we catch it early, is at 98 percent,” Jones said. “Every woman can get a personalized risk assessment predicting her chance of breast cancer.

“A lot of women, when they start doing their mammograms at the age of 40, they get used to that feeling of always getting a callback every six months. No. You don’t need to do that. We can find ways to help you so you don’t get the six month callback.”

The breast cancer prevention program, currently accepting new patients, sits down with patients and a multidisciplinary team focused on breast health. The team assess risks factors, breast density, hormones, height, family history and weight to help a patient through the process before prescribing medication, like Tamoxifen, which is used to prevent and treat breast cancer. Patients who are found to have increased risk qualify for additional screening and imaging.

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