TRI-CITIES, Tenn. (WJHL) October marks National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a time to shine a spotlight on the second leading cause of cancer death in women.

It can be surprising to some that around 85 percent of breast cancer patients have no family history of breast cancer at all.

In a year marked by the coronavirus pandemic, it is especially important to stay on top of your health.

“One and eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime and early detection is the best protection right now until we find a cure for breast cancer,” said Amy Dunaway, director of Susan G. Komen East Tennessee.

It is a fact that having mammograms, and having them on time, saves lives. Doctors recommend starting annual mammograms at age 40, or earlier if there is family history of the disease.

“We have come so far over the years with the treatments that we have developed in the methods of screening even that really do give everyone a fighting chance. It is no longer a death sentence to be diagnosed with breast cancer,” said Dunaway.

Unfortunately, the pandemic is threatening worse outcomes for all cancers, especially breast cancer, as screenings and treatments are down nationwide.

“If you are not having your screening, if it’s not being detected at a stage one but a stage four, that is going to have a worse outcome. That’s the message we try to send to the community on the importance of keeping your mammogram scheduled,” said Zilipah Cruz, Corporate Oncology Navigation Director for Ballad Health.

Ballad officials warn a lag in early detection could mean more cancer deaths.

“One or two years from now, what does that look like as far as late detection and late diagnosis of staging? That’s the kind of thing we try to harp on for people to understand,” said Cruz.

For those fighting breast cancer now, the pandemic hits them especially hard. Those in chemotherapy are much higher risk for contracting coronavirus.

“Nobody saves for a cancer diagnosis. But, it’s even more tragic when you lose your job or perhaps you can’t work because you are in chemo and the threat of COVID-19,” said Dunaway.

It’s why Susan G. Komen of East Tennessee is working to make sure even amid the hardest times, the people who need help get it.

“We are predicting 60 to 70% decrease in our funds raised. And that is tragic because the women who don’t have insurance and the men who don’t have insurance and need those mammograms and diagnostics, that’s where Komen is able to help with those funds. It’s almost a double edge sword though because we are down fundraising but we have had more calls than ever,” said Dunaway.

Dunaway says if you feel lead to make a donation, the money will go to helping local men and women in need get the life-saving treatment they need.

Komen East Tennessee also has a few fundraising events on tap for the month of October.

Their “Big Wig” campaign has officially launched with the hopes of raising 20,000 dollars this month. News Channel 11’s own Amy Lynn is a big wig raising money.

There is also a golf tournament being held month-long at Meadowview in Kingsport. Because of the pandemic you can participate at any time, more information can be found here on how to register.