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(KTXL) — More delay means more disease. That’s the urgent, new warning from the Sutter Health network of hospitals when it comes to women, breast cancer and mammograms.

Sutter doctors from the Sacramento Valley to the Bay Area are making a desperate plea for patients to make appointments for critical breast screenings to avoid as many cancer deaths as possible.

Pandemic shutdowns and concerns caused people across the country to postpone medical procedures and appointments. In Northern California, doctors estimate between that and other delays, about 100,000 women have not had a mammogram at a Sutter-affiliated facility in about two years.

That means when a patient does come in, radiologists are seeing more of them with more advanced cancer.

With the disease targeting five of every 100 women, they fear there may be 500 undiagnosed cases in the region, which will only get worse with inattention.

“Over 40,000 women will die of their breast cancer this year, so we really want to get these people into the system and treated as soon as possible,” said Dr. Miyuki Murphy, Sutter director of breast imaging for the Valley Area. “We found that with early breast cancers, which are the ones that tend to be found with screening mammography when they’re early, the five-year survival rate is 99%.”

Through Sutter’s My Health Online, patients can easily schedule a mammogram. They can also call Sutter to make an appointment at 916-878-3490.