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Physicians: Don't delay cancer screenings because of COVID-19; it's safe to go to the doctor

WBBM Radio Chicago logo WBBM Radio Chicago 10/8/2020 Bernie Tafoya
a person sitting on a table © Provided by WBBM Radio Chicago

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- If you’ve been putting off getting your yearly mammogram or skin cancer screenings, because of fear of possibly contracting COVID-19, you’re not alone, but medical experts say it's safe to go to your doctor.

"Cancer doesn’t wait for COVID, so people are still getting cancer," said Dr. Julian “Skip” Schink, MD, Chief Medical Officer and Chief, CTCA Division of Gynecologic Oncology of the Cancer Treatment Centers of America.

He said people are delaying going to the doctor until symptoms become more obvious than what doctors had been used to seeing.

"It’s sad that any delay in diagnosis potentially decreases the chance that we would cure their cancer," he said.

Dr. Schink said people were worried, early on, about going to the doctor and possibly contracting COVID-19. He said many people remain leery, and that was and still can be dangerous to their health.

"The symptoms of cancer don’t shout. They whisper and nag. And, you know, people are putting off, they’re ignoring those whispers and those nags," Dr. Schink said.

Sarah Bazzetta, physician’s assistant in the Preventive Oncology Department at the University of Chicago Medicine said appointments were down about 90 percent in April and May, but are now down 10 to 30 percent.

"We have several months of patients who really have to be caught up so, in theory, we should be up 20 percent to 30 percent to catch up and patients just aren’t all ready to come back in," she said.

Dr. Schink said it’s time for people to tend to their own health care needs, especially since the top four cancers are screenable: breast cancer, colon cancer, low dose lung cancer, and skin cancer.

Dr. Schink said health care facilities have learned how to keep patients safe and that people should feel confident in that and schedule their appointments.

Bazzetta said waiting rooms have been thinned out more and there's greater space between appointments, as well.

She said breast cancer diagnoses are down about 50 percent nationwide and that getting a regular mammogram is key for early diagnosis "which leads to really good outcomes."


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