COVID-19 Safety

Protect yourself during your appointments.

Are you putting off your routine health appointments because you’re worried about being exposed to COVID-19? (You’re not alone. In the 2023 Early Detection Survey, 33% of adults 21+ said potential exposure to COVID-19 continues to have a negative impact on whether they go to their routine medical appointments.)

While it’s important to stay safe (and risk factors are different for everyone), it’s recommended for most that you get your routine cancer screenings done and take precautions to reduce your risk of contracting COVID-19 at your appointments.

The best way to protect yourself against COVID-19—before your routine cancer screening or any time—is to get vaccinated against the virus!

The COVID-19 vaccines have been proven safe and effective and can help protect adults and children ages 6 months and older from getting sick or severely ill with COVID-19. You can stay up to date by getting booster shots as recommended. (Note: Some people cannot get vaccinated or will experience limited protection from the vaccines due to medical conditions. Talk to your doctor about your specific circumstances.)

Even if you are fully vaccinated, wearing a mask in an area of substantial or high transmission can reduce your risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 and possibly spreading it to others. You might choose to wear a mask regardless of the level of the transmission. Your health care provider may require patients and staff to wear masks regardless of vaccination status.

Like all vaccines, the COVID-19 vaccine can produce some side effects, including swollen lymph nodes under your arm (the swollen lymph nodes would be under the arm in which you received the injection). If you have a mammogram to screen for breast cancer soon after the injection, swollen lymph nodes could show up on the breast image and prompt concern and/or additional testing that would otherwise be unnecessary.

Do not postpone or cancel your routine mammogram due to this potential side effect without first discussing it with your health care provider. If you have a mammogram soon after you receive the COVID-19 vaccine, be sure to tell your doctor when and in which arm you received the injection.


It’s ok to ask! It’s understandable to be nervous about visiting your doctor or dentist while COVID-19 and other viruses are still circulating. The best way to assess your risk is to talk to your provider’s office and ask what steps they are taking to limit risk of exposure to COVID-19.

It’s important to note that many offices have now eliminated such precautions or made masking and vaccination optional. If this is the case, you may still request to see a provider who is vaccinated or ask your provider to wear a mask. Don’t be afraid to advocate for your health!

Some precautions from your health care provider may include:

  • Requirements that all health care providers and additional staff to be vaccinated.
  • You can call your health care provider’s office and ask if your doctor or others in the office are vaccinated against COVID-19.
  • A call-in or virtual check-in process so you can check in from your car or outside.
  • Limited seating in the waiting area so you can maintain physical distance from staff and other patients.
  • Requirements or requests that all staff and/or visitors wear masks.


  • Hand sanitizer available throughout the office.
  • Frequent and thorough cleaning of all spaces and high-touch areas.
  • Protective equipment worn by all health care providers and office staff who have contact with patients.
  • Temperature checks and COVID-19 questionnaires for all incoming patients.
  • Requirements for patients to test negative for COVID-19 a certain number of hours/days before a procedure, such as a colonoscopy.


A senior woman embraces a senior man from behind.


Screening guidelines are never one-size-fits-all, and everyone’s risk factors are different. When deciding when to schedule your routine screenings, you should weigh the potential risk of exposure to COVID-19 and other illnesses against the potential risk of a late or missed cancer diagnosis. If you are immunocompromised (if you have a weakened immune system) or are at high risk for complications from contracting the virus, it may make sense to wait. Call your health care provider for guidance.


For colorectal cancer, at-home screening may be an option for you (if you are of average risk).+ Talk to your health care provider about which colorectal cancer screening test is right for you.

Below is a brief overview of the different types of tests available along with interval suggestions.

Test Screening Interval
Colonoscopy Every 10 years
Virtual colonoscopy* Every 5 years
Flexible sigmoidoscopy* Every 5 years
High sensitivity guaiac based fecal occult blood test (HS gFOBT)* Every year
Fecal immunochemical test (FIT)* Every year
Multitarget stool DNA test (mt-sDNA)* Every 3 years


+‘Average risk’ means you do not have:

  • A personal history of inflammatory bowel disease (such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease).
  • A personal history of colorectal cancer or certain kinds of polyps (“flat polyps”).
  • A family history of colorectal cancer.
  • Hereditary colorectal cancer syndrome (such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or Lynch syndrome).

*An abnormal result of a virtual colonoscopy or flexible sigmoidoscopy, a positive FOBT, FIT or sDNA test should be followed up with a timely colonoscopy.

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