Pandemic having major impact on patients’ cancer screenings, doctors say

Health officials are urging people to keep up with important cancer screenings amid the pandemic.

In the spring, data released by Epic Health Research Network found preventative screenings for colonoscopies dropped roughly 86% in the United States and 94% for breast and cervical cancers. As of July, the journal said the number of screenings started to increase but was still low compared to pre-pandemic numbers.

“The pandemic is hugely impacting cancer screenings,” said Dr. Scott Lind, surgical oncologist at Orange Park Medical Center.

Lind said early detection is key and delayed screenings could lead to more advanced stages of cancer.

“The whole premise behind cancer screenings is to pick up the tumor at an early stage, be able to diagnose and treat it at an earlier stage and have an improved outcome,” explained Lind. “We’re losing some ground related to the COVID pandemic and we understand why people are hesitant, but now it’s important to get screened.”

According to health officials, some of the important screenings that should not be put off include mammograms, colonoscopies, pap tests and prostate exams. Lind said doctors' offices are safe and patients should follow the screening guidelines recommended by their physician.

“We’re washing hands. We’re ensuring when you are in contact with anything that is going to screen you, that it is clean and protected. The risks are small, very small,” said Lind. “The benefits gained from screening greatly outweigh the risks of not screening.”

If you are behind on your screenings, Lind said to consult with your primary care physician or health care provider.

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