If your appointment for a screening was canceled or postponed, talk with your provider about when to reschedule.
MADISONVILLE, KY - April 20, 2021 – Adding to the list of things disrupted by the pandemic, many elective medical procedures, including cancer screenings, were largely put on hold to prioritize urgent needs and to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 in healthcare settings.
If you had an appointment for a screening that was canceled or postponed, talk with your healthcare team about when to reschedule. Taking into consideration your personal and family history, other risk factors, and the timing of your last screening test, your provider can discuss balancing the risks and benefits of being screened now.
It’s important to note that cancer screening tests look for cancer in people who don’t have symptoms. These tests differ from ones your doctor might order if you have symptoms that could be from cancer, like a lump in the breast or blood in the stool. If you have symptoms like these, call your doctor as you’ll need exams or tests that evaluate those particular signs or symptoms.
"The COVID-19 pandemic initially led to sharp declines in the use of recommended cancer screening tests. This means that some members of our community may have early cancers that are going undetected," said Devalkumar Rajyaguru, MD, Medical Oncologist at Baptist Health Madisonville’s Merle M. Mahr Cancer Center. "I strongly encourage those who have put off these tests to get back on their schedules for regular cancer screening. Regular cancer screenings save lives as screenings have the potential to detect pre-cancerous lesions and cancer at the earliest stages before symptoms appear and when these diseases are at their most treatable."
You may have options for screening
Screening tests are general recommendations for large groups of people, but you may have some flexibility for some tests, including:
What repercussions will follow screening stopped by the pandemic?
- Cervical cancer screening. A Pap smear involves the collection of cells from the lining of the cervix, an organ in the female reproductive system that links the vagina to the uterus. These cells are then analyzed for evidence of cancer or precancerous abnormalities. Pap smears are a preventive procedure, designed to catch cancer in its early stages when treatment is most likely to be successful in overcoming the disease. Pap smears are an effective means of combating cervical cancer, reducing incidence and mortality. To learn more about Pap smears and their associated health benefits, contact a Baptist Health Women’s Health Provider.
- Breast cancer screening. Cancer screenings often help find cancer before symptoms are experienced. This is especially important in diagnosing breast cancer, which affects one of every eight women. When found early, breast cancer is highly treatable.
- Colorectal cancer screening. Colorectal cancer has the second-highest mortality rate among all cancers diagnosed in Kentucky, but if diagnosed and treated at an early stage, a person has a much better chance of survival. That’s why the American College of Gastroenterology recommends screening for colorectal cancer at age 45 for individuals not at an increased risk of the disease.
- Lung cancer screening. Lung cancer is the most common cancer treated at the hospital, as well as the most common cancer in both men and women in the United States. This cancer kills more people than pancreatic, breast and colon cancer combined, largely because it often does not have symptoms until it is too late to treat effectively. In March 2021, USPSTF (The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force) expanded the age range to 50 to 80 years and reduced the pack-year history to 20 pack-years of smoking. It is important that everyone follows up as advised following a screening. A low-dose CT screening is safe and yet only 5% of eligible patients get one.
Last year, cancer screening programs around the world came to a virtual stop as COVID-19 infection rates surged globally. The fallout of this screening slowdown is now becoming clear.
Based on the number of patients diagnosed with cancer through screenings in previous years, the numbers are down significantly during the pandemic. Cancer screenings detect cancer before symptoms appear, which allows doctors to begin treatment in its early stages. This will likely result in a surge in cancer cases once testing resumes. Many medical experts also fear that those diagnosed will be further along and that later treatment will negatively affect patients’ chances of recovery.
Should I get a routine cancer screening now or wait until later?
As stay-at-home orders are relaxed or lifted, healthcare facilities are beginning to schedule routine cancer screenings, tests, and exams again. If you’re due — or overdue — for a routine cancer screening right now, here are some things you should consider:
Learn more about cancer screening at Baptist Health
- Early detection can make a difference. Generally, the later cancer is detected, the more serious and involved treatment becomes. Catching cancer at an earlier stage may make cancer easier to treat and improve outcomes. If you’re high risk, it’s important to stick to your regular screening schedule.
- Don’t put your health on hold. At Baptist Health Madisonville, we understand that you may have questions regarding your safety during this time of COVID-19 precautions. You may naturally wonder what safeguards are in place in our hospitals and clinics to support your health. As a result of COVID-19, we have implemented additional protocols within each of our hospitals and clinics to support your safety and peace of mind when seeking treatment with Baptist Health Madisonville.
If you’d like to learn more about cancer screening services or take a health risk assessment, visit BaptistHealth.com/Madisonville.