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Cancer screenings down nationwide during the COVID-19 pandemic

According to the Prevent Cancer Foundation, 35 percent of Americans had a cancer screening...
According to the Prevent Cancer Foundation, 35 percent of Americans had a cancer screening scheduled during the pandemic and missed it.(KY3)
Published: Sep. 8, 2020 at 4:33 AM CDT
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PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) -

Call it just another symptom of the COVID-19 pandemic: Cancer screenings have gone down nationwide.

According to the Prevent Cancer Foundation, 35 percent of Americans had a cancer screening scheduled during the pandemic and missed it. Similarly, a survey this summer by the medical technology company Hologic found more than a quarter of women plan to either skip or delay their annual screenings this year. That includes mammograms, which can help catch breast cancer early when its easier to treat.

As a result, the National Cancer Institute estimates that there could be 10,000 additional breast and colorectal deaths over the next decade as a result of missed screenings and delayed diagnoses, and health experts are raising concerns.

“There can be no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic is causing delayed diagnosis and suboptimal care for people with cancer,” wrote Norman “Ned” Sharpless, director of the National Cancer Institute, in an editorial published earlier this year in the journal Science.

“Cancers being missed now will still come to light eventually, but at a later stage,” Sharpless wrote, “and with worse prognoses.”

If you are one of the many who has delayed going in for an appointment this year, the American Cancer Society says there may be flexibility for some screening tests.

For example, many women get cervical cancer screenings annually. However, officials say no organization recommends cervical cancer screenings with a Pap test any more often than every 3 years, and if an HPV test is used, no more often than every 5 years. There are also several options for colorectal cancer screening for people at average risk such as stool tests, which can be done safely at home.

Further guidance on how screenings can be done safely within a healthcare facility can be found on the American Cancer Society’s website here. They also offer a 24-hour hotline at (800) 227-2345.

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