WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — October is breast cancer awareness month. It's an important reminder to get your annual mammogram, even during a pandemic.
"I was diagnosed with breast cancer two days before my 29th birthday," Shaniqua Martin said. "It came out of nowhere."
Martin was and still is surprised by her breast cancer diagnosis about a year ago.
"It was a whirlwind of emotions," she said. "Confusion is probably the No. 1. I had no idea where it came from. We did genetic testing and there was no genetic history."
The young mother was also pregnant and underwent surgery at the Breast Institute at Good Samaritan Medical Center in West Palm Beach.
"My first daughter is 3, Riley, and a month after diagnosis of breast cancer, I found out I was six weeks pregnant," she said. "So I went through the entire process pregnant."
She is proud she took action early after feeling a lump and now calls on others to get their annual mammogram.
"You don't want to wait too long and then, next thing you know, you are kind of too late to do anything about it," she said.
Doctors are joining that call. Be safe at the appointment, but get checked.
"Be safe. Wear your mask. Sanitize your hands," she said.
Dr. Courtney Hoey is a radiologist at the Breast Institute at Good Samaritan Medical Center.
"In March, April, we were really cut down on the number of people coming into the hospital to minimize exposure," she said.
Hoey said it's important to try not to space mammograms out further than necessary. They've adjusted the schedule to allow for greater demand following the initial months of COVID-19 and the pandemic, adding more technologists and a second room.
"We are trying to increase the number we can see each day to cut that backlog down," she said.
Hoey noted it may not be wise to wait because of the pandemic.
"We don't know when we are going to be out of this, so putting your mammogram off for another year, the risk may outweigh the benefit," she said. "Especially if you have a new symptom, if you're feeling a lump, if you see a change in your breast, if there is something that is worrying you, please don't wait."
Martin echoes that sentiment. She said life is too important.
"I had surgery while I was 13 weeks, and me and her went through the entire process," Martin said. “After surgery, the check-ups, the follow-ups, I had a healthy baby girl in May, Malia."