By Vicki Browne, BSN, RN, OCN
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our normal way of life in a myriad of ways, from the way we socialize, to how we work, to when we are able to see loved ones. One critical area that has been disrupted is preventative healthcare and cancer screenings – with the steep decline in new cancer diagnoses reported during the pandemic revealing the untold number of missed cases.
As nearly every normal routine became a potential public health risk, it seemed logical for many people to wait it out until they felt safe going back to medical offices.
However, cancer is not a condition that can wait. Delaying detection and treatment has a direct impact on prognosis and health outcomes. The longer you wait, the harder it may be to treat and ultimately cure.
A 2020 survey by the American Cancer Society found that 50 percent of cancer patients and survivors reported some impact to their care as a result of the pandemic. According to the CDC’s National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, the total number of cancer screening tests received by women declined by a staggering 87% for breast cancer and 84% for cervical cancer during April 2020 as compared with the previous 5-year averages for that month.
Since the height of national COVID-19 lockdowns and local stay-at-home orders, those screening numbers have rebounded, but they have again been impacted by the recent Omicron outbreak, reminding us of the pandemic’s continued influence over outcomes for many serious conditions, including cancer.
This National Cancer Prevention Month, we want to emphasize the importance of regular cancer screenings despite the challenges of the pandemic so that health outcomes can continue to improve for all patients.
At NYPC, we recommend continuing to prioritize your regular cancer screenings as recommended by your provider and national guidelines. Across all cancers, patient prognoses are best when the cancers are detected early. Thanks to self-examinations or medical screenings, many common cancers are able to be detected at an earlier stage, allowing patients to begin treatment promptly and providing them with their best chances of cure.
During National Cancer Prevention Month, and always, we recommend consistent self-examination, discussing any concerns with your healthcare provider, and ensuring you are up to date with all recommended health-related screenings.
Let’s not let one health crisis lead to another. Regular cancer screenings remain critical in keeping us all safe.
Vicki Browne, BSN, RN, OCN is the New York Proton Center’s Nurse Manager.