Health Screenings Still Lag Behind Pre Pandemic Rates

Beverly Cantrell - February 14, 2022 6:41 am

More than two years into the pandemic, another battle wages on the fight to boost cancer screenings. They have taken a big hit as patients skip or put off those routine appointments.

“If we ignore these types of screening tests, then it’s very possible we may not be around for the people we love,” said Dr. Katherine Morris, a cancer surgeon, and professor at OU Health.

Dr. Morris admits even she fell behind on some of her routine screenings over the last couple of years. She has now caught up and wants others to do the same.

“It’s definitely a topic near and dear to my heart because our screening rates aren’t fantastic in the state to begin with, even pre-pandemic,” said Dr. Morris. “Especially for things like colon cancer which is preventable cancer in a lot of cases.”

Even before the pandemic, Oklahoma ranked in the bottom ten states when it comes to colon cancer screenings. Screenings for all cancers, including breast and cervical cancers, took a massive hit, up to 94%, in the first year of the pandemic.

And new reports show they still haven’t recovered, due in part to the omicron surge.

“Screenings work for a lot of cancers, and it’s very important for saving people’s lives,” said Dr. Morris. “I’m hoping this message will get out there and people will embrace it.”

How exactly that drop in screenings has affected patient outcomes is still being studied by the American College of Surgeons. In the meantime, Oklahoma hospitals are taking extra precautions to keep you safe while there for screening procedures, from giving you a COVID test prior to requiring masks. And most health care providers are vaccinated, also decreasing your risk.

Dr. Morris said, “The risk of missing cancer or potentially allowing one to develop that didn’t have to, in the case of colon cancer, is much higher in my opinion than the risk of getting COVID.”

While the world waits to get back to “normal” following this pandemic, one thing that won’t wait is cancer. So experts say it is on us to stay ahead of it and be proactive.

Doctors advise checking in with your health care provider once a year to find out which screenings you are due for, and as always, don’t ignore any symptoms.

 

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