SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but experts say they’ve seen a decline in the number of preventative screenings due to COVID-19.

Physicians at SouthCoast Health say patients are postponing their medical tests, resulting in delayed cancer diagnoses.

“We have a backlog of cases that will only make the delay in diagnoses that much more significant,” Breast and Endocrine Surgeon at SouthCoast Health Dr. Christa Jillard said.

Weekly diagnoses have dropped over 40 percent since the pandemic began, meaning physicians are less likely to detect cancer at an early stage.

“Over the years, we’ve made such strides and it’s really a public health issue that we need to recognize that in shutting down everything, which we needed to at the beginning, that now that we’ve opened things up we need patients, women, to really make sure they make that a priority,” Jillard said.

The surgeon says new data shows the number of mammograms performed is at 34 percent of what it used to be before coronavirus because of patients canceling their visits.

“The National Cancer Institute and the American Medical Association have made very clear statements in prompting women to follow up with their appointments,” Jillard said.

She suggests using this month as a reminder to schedule a screening and ensures a visit to the clinic can still be done safely.

“We’ve all made significant strides to make sure this is a safe environment for women to come to,” Jillard said. “At SouthCoast, we have temperature employee checks, masks when we’re inside, social distancing.”

Jillard says once you turn 40, you should start thinking about getting screened annually for breast cancer. If you have a family history, even earlier.

“Breast cancer does not stop because of coronavirus,” Jillard said.