Due to the disruptions associated with the Covid-19 pandemic, many people have postponed their regular medical care. This includes reductions in cancer screenings for: Mammogram When ColonoscopyIn the meantime, cancer remains one of the leading causes of death in the United States, secondary to heart disease.
Why is cancer screening so important and who should be screened for which types of cancer? When was the last exam and how can I find out when the current exam is due? What happens if a cancer screening is delayed? And what should people do if they are very concerned about the risk of contracting coronavirus?
To answer these questions, we spoke with CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen. Dr. Leana Wen is an emergency physician and George She is Professor of Health Policy and Management at the University of Washington Milken Institute School of Public Health. She is also the author of “.Lifeline: A Physician’s Journey in the Battle for Public Health”
CNN: Why is getting screened for cancer so important?
AS Dr. Liana Wen: Regular cancer screening is essential for early detection of cancer. This allows cancer to be detected before symptoms appear. In general, early detection of cancer leads to better outcomes. For example, a small localized tumor can be removed before it spreads to other parts of the body. Screening can also find abnormal cells that can become cancer, and prompt treatment can prevent that cancer from developing and spreading.
CNN: Who should be screened for which cancer and when?
Wen: Three main types of cancer screening Supported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention For breast, cervical and colorectal cancer. The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) is an influential national organization that makes recommendations on disease prevention. Mammograms recommended every 2 years It is intended for women aged 50 to 74 who are at average risk of breast cancer.
A mammogram is a type of x-ray and is available in most hospitals and outpatient radiology centers. According to the USPSTF, those at high risk in this age group, and those under the age of 50, should consult with their doctor to determine how often they should be screened.several other medical institutions, including American Cancer Societyrecommends more frequent annual screening mammograms.
Cervical cancer screening is pap testA health care provider performs a gynecological examination and removes some cells and mucus from the patient’s cervix.of USPSTF Recommended Women and people with a cervix should have a Pap test every three years between the ages of 21 and 65. Some people are screened more often, depending on their risk factors.
The USPSTF also recommends that all adults between the ages of 45 and 75 be screened for colorectal cancer.there is some screening tools involvement. One is a stool-based test that detects the presence of specific markers in stool. Another is a colonoscopy. This involves examining the rectum and colon using a long flexible scope.Colonoscopy is generally recommended every ten yearsWhich tests to do and how often will also depend on the individual’s medical and family history.
CNN: What about lung cancer, another leading cause of death?
Wen: lung cancer screening Supported by CDCSpecifically for people between the ages of 50 and 80 who have ever smoked, who are current smokers, or who have quit within the last 15 years.of USPSTF Recommended Annual low-dose computed tomography screening. This is a type of CT scan that can be performed in many hospitals and radiology facilities.
CNN: Are there other cancers to screen for? For example, ovarian cancer or pancreatic cancer?
Wen: there is lots of cancerThere is not enough evidence to justify routine, ongoing screening in individuals with average risk factors such as ovarian, pancreatic, thyroid, and skin cancers. Ask your doctor about the benefits of screening if you have certain types of cancer in your family. Of course, if you develop symptoms – for example, discovering new growths on your neck or having skin discolorations that are changing in appearance – you should definitely see your healthcare provider.
CNN: Many people may not remember when they last had a screening test, especially if they moved or changed providers. How should they check if the deadline has come?
Wen: If you’ve been seeing the same doctor all along, you can call your doctor’s office to find out the date of your last screening test. A record is required. If your provider offers electronic patient portals, you may be able to access them.
Another possibility is to contact your insurance company if you have been with the same insurance company for the past few years. A record of the last preventive examination is also required. You can also contact your previous provider at any time. In general, it’s a good idea to have a copy of your old medical records to compare with new test results.
CNN: What if I miss some screening tests? Would you recommend catching up with them as soon as possible?
Wen: yes. Many patients were not screened for various reasons. Perhaps Covid-19 fears caused the delay. Perhaps they moved or changed jobs. Perhaps they have children or grandchildren or other new care responsibilities and life has gotten busy. Find your upcoming tests and start scheduling now.
I would add that this also applies to other preventative services. Make sure you’re also on track to screen for high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, and other chronic conditions. The sooner these conditions are detected and flagged as potential problems, the better. and can start dealing with it.
CNN: Some people are very concerned about the risk of contracting Covid-19 while being screened. Any advice for them?
Wen: Medical settings tend to be very cautious and are taking many steps to reduce the risk of Covid-19. Anyone concerned about contracting Covid-19 should ask the facility testing what mitigation measures are used. Remember that one-way masking with a high quality mask works very well. For mammograms and Pap exams, and doctor visits, she can wear an N95 or equivalent during the exam. For colonoscopies, this may not be possible for the entire procedure, but almost certainly colonoscopies are performed in a room where others are masked the entire time.
You can also further reduce your risk of serious illness by ensuring that: Latest on coronavirus boosterIf you are eligible for the prophylactic antibody Evusheld, you should also take it.
Finally, it’s important to put the risks of Covid-19 into context. The absence of coronavirus is not the only indicator of health. It is necessary to comprehensively consider mental and physical health, including continuing preventive medicine such as cancer screening.
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