LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Many medical exams and procedures were put on hold during the pandemic. But as life gets back to normal, it's important to see your doctor.
One local expert is appealing to women about scheduling an annual mammogram.
"I was diagnosed with breast cancer in January of 2019," says Kristen Louis.
She'll never forget the day she learned she had cancer. It was just weeks after learning she was pregnant with her first child.
"I was blindsided by it... I did do one lumpectomy while I was pregnant. They were able to do that. So that was probably the first thing that I did. And then after I did that, then we started chemo and we did both of those while I was pregnant," says Kristen.
Kristen is grateful to say she ended up having a healthy baby boy. But she credits a breast self-exam for finding something, that led her to getting checked by a doctor.
"So my message would be to make sure you get yourself checked out. Do it yourself at least," says Kristen.
"I recommend starting about age 30, trying to do a monthly exam," says Dr. Stephani Christensen with Comprehensive Cancer Centers.
She says one in eight women will face breast cancer in her lifetime. So it's important to do a self-exam and call your doctor if you notice any changes.
"If you notice the nipple changes, the color changes, or if you feel a new lump that hadn't been there, that's when you want to get checked out," says Dr. Christensen.
It's especially important for African American women. They're twice as likely to get breast cancer under the age of 40 and unfortunately far too many women put off getting a screening during the pandemic.
"It's really concerning. And unfortunately, we're seeing women diagnosed later because they've missed their annual mammograms and they haven't gotten back on track," says Dr. Christensen.
That's especially dangerous because the later you're diagnosed, the higher the risk of mortality from breast cancer. So early detection is key.
Dr. Christensen says, don't avoid getting the proper care.
"I think a lot of people are scared of doctors because they don't want to get on the scale or they don't want to hear, why didn't you do that? Why didn't do that? And that's not the case. Doctors are here to help," says Dr. Christensen.
Kristen agrees and says it's a problem that needs to stop.
"I feel like definitely in the African-American community in general, a lot of times we ignore any kind of health things going on. And try to like, oh, I'll get better or don't want to hear it... Breast cancer doesn't discriminate," says Kristen.
It's important to note, insurance is required has to pay for an annual screening. If you're not insured, there are resources available for getting a free mammogram.