Sentara Cancer Network urges patients to keep cancer screening appointments
The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly impacted healthcare for staff, patients and caregivers. It’s important for everyone to schedule any missed cancer screenings and to keep future appointments to avoid missing a potentially deadly disease before it enters a later stage with a more serious diagnosis. Regularly-scheduled screenings, appointments, and non-urgent procedures were canceled in March and April as the nation’s health systems prepared for a potential surge in hospital capacity and resources. Sentara is equipped to safely treat COVID-19 patients while simultaneously delivering non-COVID medical care, including preventative cancer screenings, treatments and non-urgent procedures.
National data released from Sentara’s electronic medical records vendor, Epic, shows a drastic decline in cancer screenings for cervix, colon and breast cancers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Epic data shows appointments for those screenings were down between 86% and 94% in March 2020, compared to average volumes in the three years before. The Sentara Cancer Network is seeing similar data here locally.
“Seeing patients delay these critical prevention screenings gives me great concern,” said Dr. Jennifer Reed, breast cancer surgeon with Sentara Surgery Specialists. “I fear a lack of screening compliance now could lead to an increase in late-stage cancers in the future. Identifying a cancer diagnosis through screenings at its earliest stage provides the best opportunity for a positive outcome.”
Cancer screenings are vital to detecting early-stage cancers (stage 1 and stage 2) before they reach a later stage. Many cancers do not present symptoms until they are at a late stage, and by that time there is a lesser chance for patients to make a full recovery. The Sentara Cancer Networks wants to ensure patients are not delaying these critically important screenings, to prevent a future rise in late-stage cancer diagnosis in our communities.
When returning to a Sentara medical facility, patients can expect to be met by staff wearing the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), screened for COVID-19 symptoms including a temperature reading with a touch-less thermometer, and be given a mask if they do not already have one. All medical offices and treatment facilities undergo rigorous cleaning procedures and are safe for all patients.
June is National Cancer Survivors Month. Help us ensure there are more survivors in our community by encouraging your friends and family to take the necessary steps for early detection and prevention. To schedule a cancer screening, or to learn more about the importance of early detection, please visit our website.
By: Kelly Kennedy