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The Effect Of COVID-19 On Preventative Cancer Screenings

Pandemic-related delays in cancer screening may decrease survival outcomes.
Pandemic-related delays in cancer screening may decrease survival outcomes. Photo Credit: Getty Images

Early detection of cancer cells is critical for survival outcomes, but the COVID-19 pandemic has caused an untold number of cancers to go undiagnosed and untreated. As the world entered lockdown in 2020, many people postponed annual preventative cancer screenings, as a way to avoid the virus. To this day, many are yet to reschedule.

Based on data collected by the Northwell Health Cancer Institute, preventative cancer screenings plummeted by as much as 94% during 2020. Because of the pandemic-related delays in diagnosing and treatment, The National Cancer Institute predicts almost 10,000 excess deaths over the next decade from breast and colon cancers alone.

Most people tend to avoid screenings if they are feeling healthy. However, screenings are designated for people who are at average risk and have no symptoms. For those who are unsure about their medical history, or if they should be screened earlier, consider your age, sex, lifestyle, and medical history, and consult with your primary care physician if you have any questions.

Recommendations for screening vary among cancer types. However, typically 40 years of age is the standard for healthy adults to begin regular preventative screenings. Those with pre-existing conditions or a family history of cancer should speak with their physician about a proper timeline for their preventative screenings. Those individuals may also want to consider genetic testing, as genetics can identify risk level and guide health decisions.

At the Northwell Health Cancer Institute at Phelps, we offer educational programs and resources that can help you make informed decisions about your health and wellness. Our resource center is available to schedule appointments and answer all of your questions related to preventative healthcare. Call (914) 366-1600 to speak with an expert today.