More than a third of adult Americans missed regular cancer screenings last year, and doctors say many children and adolescents also lag behind childhood vaccinations.
But as the pandemic shifts into new territory and summer approaches, doctors say it’s time for everyone to head back to the doctor’s office.
“There’s no time to lose getting in and getting those screenings done,” Dr. John Deeken, president of the Inova Shar Cancer Institute, told News4. “If cancer is not detected early, it is much more difficult to treat.”
Deeken says delaying screening by 6 months to a year could dramatically change the outlook for patients with early cancers.
“We expect there will be more than ten thousand additional cancer deaths in the coming years due to the loss of screenings last year as a result of both breast cancer screenings and colorectal screenings not being done when they should have,” he said.
Most women diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history and no symptoms – which is why a mammogram is crucial when it comes to detecting the disease.
Timing is also important for mammograms if you are getting a COVID vaccine around the same time.
Deeken advises women to notify their radiologist if they receive the injection, as it can cause enlarged lymph nodes, potentially throwing mammogram results away.
“We ask some patients to delay a few weeks after their Covid injection if they are due to have a regular mammogram, but not to delay much longer than that because again, every month that goes by, a cancer has a chance. to grow and get worse in terms of the prognosis,” Deeken said.
It’s not just cancer studies that have been put on hold.
INOVA Health System saw a 55 percent drop in emergency room visits involving children during the height of the pandemic, although things have begun to improve in recent weeks.
Pediatricians are busy too, including at PM Pediatrics. It’s a pace that will continue throughout the summer as new guidelines from the CDC show children no longer have to wait two weeks between getting the COVID shot and other childhood vaccines.
“I think offices will be very, very busy this summer with people trying to catch up. Plus, now that age 12 and up can get the vaccine, we’re also trying to work that in a bit by going back to camps that are reopening this summer with summer travel, sports, the time to think about that is now,” said Dr. Christina Johns.
“Now that we see the light at the end of the tunnel and people have been vaccinated and our environments have become safer, we need to return patients to mainstream cancer screening to bend that curve back in the right direction,” said Dr. blanket.
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Many hospitals, including INOVA, have extended opening hours and their radiology centers are now open on weekends to meet the need.