Aftermath of missed cancer screenings during COVID-19

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DOTHAN, Ala. (WDHN) — Just in the past year, about 10 million Americans missed their cancer screenings due to COVID-19.

Screenings are vital to all patients as it identifies cancer early before symptoms show, it’s the best chance to treat it or cure it.

Local doctors say they also saw a decline in regular screenings as well in their patients.

“You know for a month or two there, we were really not doing any elective procedures, for which colonoscopy for colon cancer screening applies as an elective procedure, and so we did see a sharp decline there for a couple months in the screening colonoscopies,” Digestive Health Specialists Gastroenterologist, Drew Sarrels said.

With the missed screenings and appointments, doctors expect to see the consequences effect the public health.

“Yeah, so I think it’s going to be a pretty big public health issue,” Sarrels said. “You know COVID unfortunately had a lot of direct consequences, as it relates to causing pretty critical illness, death in some instances, but I think there’s also a lot of downstream unintended consequences of that infection in the pandemic. Chief among them being people who had delay or deferment of important cancer screenings.”

Sarrels says he expects to see a wave of diagnoses in the future due to delaying of screenings. He also says that the age for colon cancer screening has been lowered from 50 to 45 and it is encouraged by the United States Preventative Services Task Force as well as multiple societies.

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