During the global coronavirus pandemic, stay-at-home orders were put in place. Indiana, like the rest of the nation, experienced economic, social, and health access freezes that affected routine cancer screenings, medical care, and resulted in further polarization of our under-resourced and minority communities. In the spring of 2020, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) reported that more than one third of adults did not receive their routine cancer screenings. NCI Director, Norman “Ned” Sharpless, MD, said that cancer diagnoses “have fallen 50% during the pandemic, with lack of screening being a major reason. It’s not that there is less cancer—it’s not just being diagnosed and treated.”
According to the American Cancer Society, one study in the Journal of American Society of Clinical Oncology, found that screenings for breast, colon, prostate, and lung cancers were lower by 85%, 75%, 74%, and 56%, respectively. In California, a study showed an 80% decrease in cervical cancer screenings. Due to missed appointments and delays in screening, NCI has stated that over the next 10 years we will see an excess in cancer deaths that were related to the delays in cancer screening and treatment. This really points to the importance of preventative care and screenings.
Indiana and the United States have moved the needle in a positive direction since last spring. We have witnessed innovation and collaboration in science, business, and public health to benefit every human being. Telehealth, text messaging services, drive-by screenings/immunizations, new community free food giveaways, broad band services, and FIT colorectal cancer screening kits mailed to homes, have been more widely used or implemented. While cancer care and screenings have improved since the global health pandemic first hit, we still have some work to do to meet the Healthy People 2030 goals, and decrease cancer disparities.
Now, with more people receiving the COVID-19 vaccines, Indiana is beginning to see more Hoosiers accessing services as businesses and social engagement opportunities re-open. Therefore, this is the perfect time to also consider reconnecting with our health care provider and schedule our routine screenings. Indiana’s health systems and health care providers have implemented safety protocols which encompasses face coverings, physical distancing, fewer people within appointment times, and enforced disinfection protocols.
There have been a few campaigns to encourage Hoosiers to get back to routine screenings:
- Cancer Won’t Wait and Neither Should You
- Time to Screen (Community Oncology Alliance and Cancer Care) – “Time to Screen” campaign provides assistance and educational resources to eliminate barriers.
Remember, early detection still is one of the best mechanisms for saving lives. So, what do you say? Let’s get back to routine screenings. Schedule your appointments today.