Doctors warn against putting off cancer screenings due to the pandemic

Author: Caroline Vandergriff/CBS News
Published: Updated:

When COVID-19 shut down the country, some medical care was also put on pause. “Screenings in the month of April in 2020 were down by 87% for breast cancer, 89% for pap smears for cervical cancer detection,” says Dr. Scott Fleischauer, an oncologist at Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital.

Routine cancer screenings have since picked back up, but still haven’t reached pre-pandemic levels. “I’ve got a lot of patients who were really two years past when they were due just based on the timing of things, and that really concerns physicians,” says Dr. Beth Kassanoff-Piper, President of the Dallas County Medical Society.

A new survey from the Prevent Cancer Foundation shows 90% of women are visiting friends and going out to eat during the pandemic, but only 48% are visiting their doctors’ offices. “We know that there are many, many patients out there right now with undiagnosed breast cancer, cervical cancers, and also colon, prostate, lung, other types of cancers,” according to Dr. Scott Fleischauer.

Senator Amy Klobuchar announced last week she battled breast cancer earlier this year. “I had a routine mammogram and like so many, I had delayed getting it during the pandemic,” she says, “I came through it, but in the course of it I found out that thousands of women have undetected breast cancer right now and one in three Americans are not moving forward with just routine exams and physicals during the pandemic.”

Doctors are encouraging people to get their routine medical care back on track. “I want to reassure people that it is absolutely safe to go into medical facilities,” says Dr. Kassanoff-Piper. Because the earlier many conditions are picked up, the better.

During the first months of the pandemic, hospitals in the U.S. reported a decline in patients being treated for heart attack and stroke. Doctors say that was due in part to the increased strain on health systems and patients fear of contracting COVID.

To support women in the fight against breast cancer, WINK News is sponsoring the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk.

The walk is Saturday, Oct. 2.

For more information, visit the website here.

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