Doctors concerned cancer diagnoses down due to skipped screenings


MEMPHIS, Tenn. — In another indirect impact of COVID-19, cancer diagnoses were down about 50 percent nationwide in the months of March and April.

That might sound like a good thing, but it could mean for much worse cases down the road.

“It’s concerning,” said Dr. Phil Lammers, a medical oncologist at Baptist Memorial Hospital. “If we do see the numbers continuing to be lower that says we’re not diagnosing cancer at an early stage.”

When COVID-19 first hit the U.S., healthcare practices panicked, wanting to keep patients safe and hospitals clear, a lot of them stopped doing routine screenings, including breast cancer mammograms, colon cancer colonoscopies, lung cancer CT scans, cervical cancer Pap smears and other procedures.

Lammers said they’ve since started doing these procedures again once they could establish safety protocol. But he knows a lot of patients are probably now missing out on treatment they need.

Lammers said you should contact your provider and schedule the screening you need.

“Don’t skip this year,” said Lisa Mischke with Susan G. Komen of Memphis, the Mid-South and Mississippi.

Komen is also offering help for people who don’t have insurance or lost their job.

“In breast cancer, our field, the racial disparities here are worse than other parts of the country,” she said. “We encourage everyone to get those screenings.”

The later doctors catch it, the worse the chance of survival.

Doctors say you can check with your provider ahead of time to get an idea of the safety protocol they’re taking. If they’re mandating masks, social distancing in the waiting room and checking temperatures, you can feel comfortable going inside.

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