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It’s Important To Continue Cancer Screenings Through COVID-19

Dr. Elizabeth Comen Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

Don't Ignore Your Screenings

  • Now may be a good time to speak with your doctor about resuming routine cancer screening tests, such as mammography
  • Healthcare facilities have become more adept at cleaning and disinfecting between patients to make the environment safer
  • Individuals with “worrisome” symptoms should not be afraid to seek out medical care

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted healthcare services for everyone, but it’s been particularly distressing for cancer patients or those seeking screenings. Thankfully, many of the “non-essential” services that were put on pause are coming back, or may already be back in your city, with new rules in place to keep you safe. The most important thing you can do at this time is to make sure you aren’t ignoring your health.

“Cancer hasn’t gone away, just because we’re in the middle of a pandemic,” says Dr. Elizabeth Comen, an oncologist from the Memorial Sloan Cancer Center in New York. However, many elective procedures and preventive services such as mammograms, colonoscopies and Pap smears may have been delayed for a few months in order to limit the number of patients coming into a facility.

Major hospitals have told SurvivorNet that cancer screenings had dropped by 90% or more, so the most important thing you can do is be an advocate for yourself and push for what you need.

“Now that we have a better hold on how to protect patients, on how to clean and disinfect between patients, and how to not crowd our waiting rooms,” says Dr. Comen, “It is really really important to talk to your doctor about screening mammogram or any other preventative test that you may need, as we know that prevention works.”

Staying Safe During Doctor Visits

Fear should not dictate treatment, and Comen says “what we don’t want is a huge fallout because patients are afraid to leave their home and missing their most important tests.”

While some patients may be anxious about getting screened while the pandemic is still ongoing, there are some tips that you can follow to help ensure safety:

  • Try to book appointments early in the morning to avoid crowds, as many people will be working. Not only will it be less crowded but the wait may be shorter.
  • Protect yourself and others by wearing a mask and gloves to your screening appointment
  • Wash your hands when you enter and leave the hospital and use hand sanitizer while at your visit
  • Practice social distancing and stay six feet away from other patients
  • If you have any risk factors, request priority scheduling when you call to make your appointment
  • Make sure to speak up when booking appointments, especially if you are told that there will be delays
  • If you have any worrisome symptoms — don’t wait and call your doctor today.
  • Keep track of your cancer screening history and make sure you are up-to-date.

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Dr. Elizabeth Comen serves as a medical advisor to SurvivorNet. She is a medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Read More