Talk to your doctor about routine cancer screenings during the pandemic

Published on May 18, 2020

Contact: Lisa Berry Edwards

Should you be getting routine cancer screenings during the COVID-19 pandemic? Up until recently, experts recommended delaying screenings whenever possible to conserve health care resources and limit risk of exposure to the virus. As restrictions begin lifting in certain areas, some offices will begin seeing patients again for routine screenings, while public officials continue to stress that you are “safer at home.”

There is no one-size-fits-all answer, and you should talk to your health care team to see if it makes sense for you to get routine screenings now or postpone. The American Cancer Society recommends taking the following points into consideration:

  • What is your risk for the type of cancer you’re being screened for? Is the risk of postponing cancer screening bigger than the risk you face from COVID-19?
  • What type of screening test would you have? (Some types of screening tests are more involved than others.)
  • How common is COVID-19 in your area, and what are local health officials recommending about getting health care services right now?
  • What is your risk for having complications if you are infected with COVID-19 (based on things like your age and if you have other serious health conditions)?
  • What measures is the center taking to help protect you and others from COVID-19 (such as pre-screening patients for COVID-related symptoms before appointments, allowing for physical distancing between patients and for longer appointment times if needed, cleaning equipment and surfaces after each patient visit, and having staff wear personal protective equipment)?

Routine screenings are screenings for patients who are not experiencing any signs or symptoms of cancer. These can include screenings for breast, cervical, colorectal, lung, oral, prostate or skin cancers. If you are experiencing symptoms that concern you, it’s important to call your health care professional for guidance.

Whether you get screened now or delay until later, you can prioritize your health at home by following the ways to reduce your cancer risk, including eating a healthy diet, getting at least 30 minutes of physical activity at least 5 days a week and protecting your skin from the sun. (Since physical distancing restrictions mean you can’t go to the gym, try walking or biking in your neighborhood, streaming at-home workouts on your TV or doing jumping jacks, pushups and situps with your family.)

If you do postpone your screenings, it is critically important to reschedule those appointments for a later date.  Screenings save lives and cancer doesn’t stop for a pandemic. Get those screenings back on the books to prevent cancer or detect it early.

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