Doctors worried as pandemic has fewer people getting life-saving routine screenings

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – In the past 30 years, breast cancer deaths have declined 20% and cervical cancer mortality rates have dropped more than 50%, according to the American Cancer Society.

Doctors say much of the credit goes to routine screenings. But during the pandemic, the number of people getting screened has dropped dramatically.

As of April colonoscopies had dropped by 90%, and mammograms and cervical cancer pap tests dropped by 94% compared with rates for the past three years, according to Epic Health Research. This is disturbing for doctors who believe these tests save lives.

“We’ve gotten into that mindset that maybe we don’t need to see the doctor, we don’t need to follow the guidelines,” said Dr. Scott Lind, a surgical oncologist with Orange Park Medical Center.

Lind said it’s time to get back to the basics.

“We’ve made tremendous advances over the last 20 years related to cancer control and improving outcomes related to cancer and a big part of that has been the screening,” said Lind.

Lind said it’s clear the coronavirus is going to ebb and flow but cancer screenings should not, and if you’re wondering if you should just wait until next year, he believes that’s dangerous.

“I would not wait. I think there’s some estimates where if you wait, we’re going to have, we are seeing more advanced cases of cancer from delays in screening, so follow the guidelines. Talk to your physician and get your screenings,” Lind said.

Cancers that are caught early have a much better rate of survival and while telehealth has been a great resource during the pandemic, it can’t replace everything.

“It’s been very helpful, but there’s not a whole lot of screening you can do there," Lind said. “It has some limitations. You have to actually go get these procedures -- your Pap smear, your mammogram, your colonoscopy, your CT scan, screening for lung cancer -- all of those guidelines.”

Talk with your doctor about your options and don’t wait for a screening that could be lifesaving.

The American Cancer Society has information on what screenings are recommended depending on your age.

About the Author: