A year+ into COVID, Americans are getting cancer screenings “Back on the Books”

New survey shows some positive trends, but minorities and children at risk for preventable cancers.

Published on August 13, 2021

Updated on October 25, 2021


Contact: Lisa Berry Edwards

As more Americans are vaccinated against the coronavirus, their comfort in going to the doctor and dentist is increasing, but many still need to reschedule lifesaving routine cancer screenings. The third survey from the Prevent Cancer Foundation, the only U.S.-based nonprofit organization focused solely on cancer prevention and early detection, shows mixed results for long-term cancer prevention.

“This newest wave of our survey shows that many people are aware they have put their health at risk during the pandemic, but awareness isn’t action. We hope everyone will be motivated to get their annual physicals, dental appointments and routine cancer screenings ‘back on the books.’ Early detection saves lives,” said Carolyn “Bo” Aldigé, Founder and CEO of the Prevent Cancer Foundation.

The new survey released by the Prevent Cancer Foundation was fielded one year after the initial May 2020 survey on cancer screening behavior during the pandemic.  This survey reports both positive trends and areas for concern for Americans: 

Positive trends:

  • Americans are going back to the doctor. There is a decline in older Americans (ages 55 and older) who missed, postponed or canceled appointments. (34% in December 2020 to 28% in May 2021.)
  • Nearly three in five Americans (57%) have discussed cancer screenings with their health care provider in the past 3 years, including 66% of adults age 55+.
  • Two in three Americans are aware that HPV can cause one or more cancers and more than half (56%) are aware that the HPV vaccine can prevent most cases of those cancers.

More to do:

  • 97% of Americans who missed doctor/dentist appointments during the pandemic planned to reschedule those appointments, but only 74% planned to contact their doctor to reschedule. The other 23% expect their doctor to contact them.
  • Minorities (at every age group) are most likely to be missing their appointments: African Americans (53%) and Hispanics (53%) are most likely to have missed, postponed, or cancelled a health appointment, compared with 48% of all Americans. Asian American women were most likely to miss a mammogram or PAP/HPV test.
  • Nearly three in five Americans (57%) have discussed cancer screenings with their health care providers in the past 3 years; however, only 39% of Asian Americans and 47% of Native Americans discussed screenings. This puts minorities well below the benchmark of total Americans.
  • Children are at risk, as missed childhood vaccines are on the rise. (17% in May 2020, 19% in December 2020 and 26% in May 2021.) More than ¼ of parents say they have missed their children’s scheduled vaccinations, including the HPV vaccine, which can prevent at least six types of cancer.
  • Despite broad awareness of HPV vaccine effectiveness, just 51% of Asian Americans are aware HPV can cause cancer and only 43% reported they were aware of the HPV vaccine.
  • Approximately ¼ of all Americans missed their annual physicals and dentist appointments during the pandemic. The top three reasons for missing appointments were: 1) COVID-19–fear (28%), 2) Health care provider’s office was closed (23%), 3) Financial (14%).
  • 1 in 6 women missed their annual mammograms and nearly 1 in 7 missed their Pap/HPV test.
  • Annual physicals, dentist appointments, mammograms, Pap/HPV tests and skin checks were the top missed appointments.

Back on the Books Gold Sponsors include Exact Sciences, Genentech and No-Shave November.

The Prevent Cancer Foundation also offers tips on how to safely keep doctors’ appointments and provides resources for the recommended cancer screenings for your age.

There are many ways to reduce your cancer risk, including never smoking, 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. The Prevent Cancer Foundation encourages everyone to make their health a priority. Prevention and early detection matter.

About the Prevent Cancer Foundation®

The Prevent Cancer Foundation® is celebrating 35 years as the only U.S. nonprofit organization focused solely on saving lives across all populations through cancer prevention and early detection.  Through research, education, outreach and advocacy, we have helped countless people avoid a cancer diagnosis or detect their cancer early enough to be successfully treated.  

The Foundation is rising to meet the challenge of reducing cancer deaths by 40% by 2035. To achieve this, we are committed to investing $20 million for innovative technologies to detect cancer early and advance multi-cancer screening, $10 million to expand cancer screening and vaccination access to medically underserved communities, and $10 million to educate the public about screening and vaccination options. For more information, please visit

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