It’s time to get cancer screenings ‘back on the books’
This spring, millions of Americans were advised to put routine medical appointments on hold to conserve health care resources for patients with COVID-19 and limit potential exposure to the virus. Now, health care experts are asking you to return.
As a member of the Prevent Cancer Foundation’s Congressional Families Cancer Prevention Program, I am sharing this vital information for your health. It’s time to get your doctor’s appointments, including those for routine cancer screenings, back on the books.
According to the Prevent Cancer Foundation, 35% of Americans had a cancer screening scheduled during the pandemic and missed it. A delayed screening could mean a cancer that could be prevented or detected early might be missed. Screening for colorectal and cervical cancers can prevent cancer by finding pre-cancerous polyps or cells, which can be removed or monitored before becoming cancerous. Breast, lung, prostate, oral and skin cancer screenings can be effective at detecting cancer early, when successful treatment is more likely. By getting routine cancer screenings, you are taking an important step in protecting your health.
Before scheduling your appointment, consult your local health care department for specific recommendations for where you live. Talk to your health care provider or visit the facility’s website to confirm the precautions they are taking to keep you and others safe. This may include changing check-in procedures to enable physical distancing in waiting areas, implementing frequent cleaning of equipment and high-touch surfaces, requiring all providers wear personal protective equipment, and conducting pre-screening of COVID-19 symptoms for health care providers and patients. You may be advised to wear a mask or visit unaccompanied. If you have been in recent contact with a COVID-19 patient or are exhibiting symptoms, you should reschedule your appointment.
Screenings can detect cancer early, but you should also take steps in your everyday life to reduce your risk. Eat a healthy diet, get at least 30 minutes of physical activity at least 5 days a week, and protect your skin from the sun. Do not smoke, or quit if you do, and limit alcoholic beverages.
The pandemic may have delayed cancer screenings and diagnoses, but it does not delay cancer. Learn which screenings are recommended for your age, gender and family health history at preventcancer.org/backonthebooks and talk to your health care provider about what is best for you. Early detection could save your life.
Mikey Hoeven is the spouse of U.S. Sen. John Hoeven and a member of the Prevent Cancer Foundation’s Congressional Families Cancer Prevention Program.