Be proactive about health | | –

As the COVID-19 pandemic recedes as a direct threat, other known public health risks need to come back into focus.

Surveys and studies confirm that during last year’s lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, Americans decided to forgo routine medical care and delayed screenings. One study published in JAMA Oncology in April estimates that cancer screenings in particular were down by more than 9 million compared with 2019.

Now, screening rates are rising, but oncologists are sounding an alarm: Not enough people are getting tested, still. All who decided to pass on regularly scheduled checks should seek care immediately. The earlier cancer is diagnosed the more treatment options are available and the better chance a patient has of recovering.

The JAMA study notes that those who pivoted to telehealth were more likely to have continued getting screened than those who didn’t pursue any form of communication with their doctors during the lockdown. Many patients are continuing to rely on telehealth due to its convenience, but of course some procedures will require a physical trip and exam.

Some people have a natural aversion to screening for cancer. Colonoscopies aren’t pleasant. Mammograms are uncomfortable. This isn’t a reason to avoid getting checked. It’s up to each individual to check in and get tested at regular intervals to stand the best chance of catching the disease early.

Doctors around the country are seeing upticks in late-stage cancer diagnoses, when the disease is more complex to treat and potentially deadlier. This has led to the public awareness campaign “Time to Screen,” a partnership between CancerCare, Community Oncology Alliance and the COA’s Patient Advocacy Network. The campaign provides a free hotline number (855-537-2733) to call to learn about screening options in callers’ areas.

Public health departments are still largely focused on putting out messaging about the vaccine process. Local community organizations also must step up to spread the word and encourage people to be proactive about their health.

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