The COVID-19 pandemic has affected healthcare, including screening, diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up care for all types of cancer. Those who have been diagnosed or who are at risk for cancer have found themselves in difficult and frightening positions, and many wonder if it’s safe to go to certain medical appointments or if they should postpone their screenings or treatments.
In March, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and local and state governments recommended that healthcare systems delay elective care, including surgeries, screenings, and treatments not considered urgent. For those with breast cancer and other forms of cancer, it’s added anxiety and uncertainty to an already challenging journey.
From March 15 to June 16, U.S. screening exams for all types of cancer dropped 90%. Imaging centers across the country stopped routine screenings for people with no symptoms. Experts believe delays in screening will have a significant impact on patients, validated by several recent studies predicting that delays to treatment by as little as two months can lead to more patients with early stage tumors progressing to more advanced tumors before they’re caught.
“This mirrors what we are already seeing from an imaging standpoint,” says Dr. Matthew Manganaro, a molecular and nuclear imaging subspecialist at Midwest Radiology. “Patients are coming in with more advanced cancers and more metastatic disease than we typically see.”
Healthcare is Changing to Keep You Safe
Now that screening exams are being offered again, experts are hopeful that people who are due—or overdue—will start scheduling appointments. By delaying screenings too long, people risk having cancer diagnosed at a more advanced stage when it’s more difficult to treat.
“Women are still concerned about getting a mammogram because they are scared of getting COVID-19,” says Dr. Meghan McKeon, a breast imaging subspecialist at Midwest Radiology. “We want to alleviate those concerns for patients, so they don’t delay their screenings.”
Healthcare facilities across the board are taking steps to keep patients and staff from getting and spreading COVID-19.
“We all understand that this is not going away, so we are adapting to limit exposures to healthcare workers and helping patients feel more comfortable about coming in for screenings and procedures,” says Dr. Michael Madison, president and CEO of Midwest Radiology.
Midwest Radiology and its affiliated St. Paul Radiology and Suburban Imaging centers have adopted safety strategies that include universal masking, screening for COVID-19 symptoms, physical distancing, increased cleaning and sanitation, and limiting visitors.
Get the Care and Support You Need
“Screening, surgery, reconstruction, and other treatments are safe,” says Dr. Manganaro. “Don’t ignore your regular appointments. If you have cancer, it needs to be treated or it will progress. The cancer diagnoses that we’re missing now will come to light later, and it’s a tragedy that fear of COVID-19 is keeping people from getting treated.”
To schedule a mammogram or to learn more about preventative screenings, visit midwestradiology.com.