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Back on the Books

Reschedule your cancer screenings today!

When the coronavirus pandemic reached the U.S., many lives were put on pause. But while you may be focusing on postponed vacations, rescheduled weddings or cancelled graduations, something even more important is being missed by tens of thousands: routine cancer screenings.

If you were scheduled during the first half of 2020 for a mammogram, Pap test, colonoscopy, PSA test, lung cancer screening, skin check or dental appointment, your doctor or dentist likely cancelled your appointment. As restrictions lift, it’s critical you get those appointments Back on the Books.

Early detection saves lives. Routine cancer screening detects cancer early (even if you have no signs or symptoms!) and increases the likelihood your treatment will be successful. If your doctor’s office is open, don’t wait for them to call you to reschedule. Give them a call today to get your appointment back on the books—and then get in the door for your routine cancer screening.

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Safety First

It’s understandable you might be nervous about visiting your doctor or dentist while the virus is still circulating. But rest assured that your health care providers are taking precautions to keep you and themselves as safe as possible. Talk to your provider’s office and ask what steps they are taking to limit risk of exposure. Some precautions may include:

  • Implementing a call-in or virtual check-in process so you can check in from your car
  • Visual markers and limited seating in the waiting area so you can maintain physical distance from staff and other patients
  • Requirements that all staff and visitors wear masks
  • Available hand sanitizer throughout the office
  • Frequent and thorough cleaning of all spaces and high-touch areas
  • Protective equipment on all health care providers and office staff who have contact with patients
  • Temperature checks and COVID-19 questionnaires for incoming patients
  • Separate entrances and exits to reduce contact with other patients entering or leaving the office
  • Requirement for patients to test negative for the coronavirus 72 hours before a procedure, such as colonoscopy

It’s okay to ask—your health care providers want you to feel safe and comfortable during your visit. Check out the video below to see what our friends at UMass Memorial Health Care are doing to keep their patients safe.

 

Not sure which routine cancer screenings you should schedule? We are here to help! Check Cancer Screening 101 or look at the chart below for information on the cancer screenings you need at every age. Individuals from each age group should also be following the recommendations of the previous age group, meaning that the screenings you start in your 20s should continue as you age.

In addition to the screenings listed below, visit your dentist every six months so that signs of oral cancer can be detected during your regular visit.

Be sure to ask your health care provider about screenings at your next visit—your needs may differ based on your personal risk factors and family health history.

AGEWOMEN
20s
  • Begin regular cervical cancer screening at age 21. Have a Pap test every 3 years.
  • If you haven’t been vaccinated against the human papillomavirus (HPV) talk to your doctor about getting vaccinated now. 
  • All adults ages 18-79 should be screened for hepatitis C, a leading cause of liver cancer. 
  • Have your health care provider examine your skin every year or visit a dermatologist.
30s
  • Screen for cervical cancer with a Pap test combined with an HPV test every 5 years, or a Pap test every 3 years.
40s
  • Get screened annually for breast cancer.
  • Begin colorectal cancer screening at age 45. Talk to your doctor about screening test options.
50s – 70s
  • If you’re a heavy smoker or former smoker, ask your doctor about getting screened for lung cancer.

 

AGEMEN
20s – 30s
  • Perform monthly testicular self-exams to know what is normal for you. 
  • If you haven’t been vaccinated against the human papillomavirus (HPV) talk to your doctor about getting vaccinated now. 
  • All adults ages 18-79 should be screened for hepatitis C, a leading cause of liver cancer. 
  • Have your health care provider examine your skin every year or visit a dermatologist.
40s
  • Begin colorectal cancer screening at age 45. Talk to your doctor about screening test options.
50s – 70s
  • Talk to your doctor about screening for prostate cancer.
  • If you’re a heavy smoker or former smoker, ask your doctor about getting screened for lung cancer.

 

If I had missed my routine checkup, the doctor would have missed finding precancerous cells. By detecting and removing these cells early, we prevented cancer.”

Erringer Helbling
Read her story 

 

Count in the kids

It’s especially important to make sure your kids’ medical appointments are continuing and they are staying on track for vaccinations to keep them safe from preventable (and dangerous!) diseases and illnesses.

For boys and girls ages 11-12, this includes the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. This vaccine protects against a virus that can cause at least 6 types of cancer. If your kids are in the recommended age range (or are older but haven’t been vaccinated against HPV), it’s important to get them vaccinated to protect against HPV and—ultimately—prevent cancer.

In the wake of the pandemic, 17% of parents had one or more of their children miss a scheduled vaccination. Vaccinations can’t wait—get them back on the books today.

 

The (screening) choice is yours

If you missed a colonoscopy and are reluctant to get your appointment back on the books, ask your health care provider about other screening options. There are approved stool-based tests available that can be done without leaving your home.

Please note, however, that not everyone is a candidate for this kind of test (based on risk and other factors), and a positive test would need to be followed up with a colonoscopy. Your insurance plan may require a co-pay for an at-home test or a colonoscopy.

 

Get covered

Medical care in the U.S. can be expensive, especially without insurance coverage. If you’ve recently lost your health insurance, there are options available to make sure you and your family are covered.

  • Join your spouse’s insurance plan. If you lost coverage because you’ve recently lost your job, this is considered a qualifying life event and you can enroll in your spouse’s plan even if it’s not their open enrollment period.
  • Purchase a plan from the Affordable Care Act marketplace. If you’ve recently lost your employer-sponsored insurance plan, you’ll qualify for a special enrollment period to buy a plan on the marketplace. You may even qualify for a subsidy to help cover the cost of a plan.
  • Utilize COBRA. If you lose your job or your hours are reduced, you typically have the right to continue group health benefits for a limited period. Just be aware that you may be required to pay the entire premium for coverage up to 102% of the cost to the plan.

If you are uninsured or underinsured, check out information on free and low-cost cancer screenings.

 

Exceptions to every rule

Screening guidelines are never one-size-fits-all, even during a pandemic. When deciding when to get your routine screening back on the books, you should weigh the potential risk of exposure to the coronavirus against the potential risk of a late or missed cancer diagnosis. If you are immunocompromised or at high risk of complications from contracting the virus, it may make sense to wait. Call your health care provider for guidance.

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