Due to the delays caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, many people have been delayed in receiving their usual medical care. This includes reduced screening for cancer such as colonoscopy and mammography. Cancer is still one of the leading causes of death in the United States, second only to heart disease. We share with you an interview with the leading media organization CNN.
Who should be screened for certain types of cancer and why is cancer screening so important?
How can people find out when their last exam was and what's coming up?
What if a person missed several cancer screenings?
What should people who are still extremely worried about catching the coronavirus do?
CNN reporter Dr. CNN Medical Analyst and professor of health policy and management at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University. Had a conversation with Leana Wen. She herself is an emergency physician.
He has another book called Lifelines: A Doctor's Journey in the Struggle for Public Health.
CNN: What makes cancer screenings so important?
Dr. Leana Wen: Early detection of cancer depends on routine cancer screenings. This makes it possible to detect tumors before the person shows symptoms. In general, the earlier the cancer is detected, the better the outcomes. For example, a small, localized tumor may be removed before it has spread to other body parts. Also, screening can identify abnormal cells that have the potential to develop into cancer, and prompt treatment can stop this cancer from growing and spreading.
CNN: When and for whom should cancer screenings be done?
Wen: Breast, cervical, and colorectal cancer screenings are the three main forms of cancer control that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention promotes. According to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), a leading national group that advises on disease prevention, women ages 50 to 74 who are at average risk for breast cancer should have a mammogram every two years.
An X-ray, called a mammogram, is available in most medical and outpatient radiology facilities. The USPSTF recommends that people under the age of 50 and those in this age range who are at higher risk should discuss the frequency of testing with their doctor.
The American Cancer Society and some other medical groups recommend more frequent annual mammography screenings.
Cervical cancer can be screened with the Pap test, which includes a gynecological examination to collect a few cells and mucus from the patient's cervix. The USPSTF recommends having a Pap test every three years for women and other individuals with a cervix, starting at age 21 until age 65. Depending on risk factors, some people may have more frequent testing.
According to the USPSTF, all people between the ages of 45 and 75 should undergo colorectal cancer screening. There are various scanning tools used. The first is a stool-based test that looks for certain indicators in your stool.
Another is colonoscopy, which is a technique that looks inside your colon and rectum using a long, flexible scope. Typically, a colonoscopy is recommended every 10 years. A person's medical and family history will also affect which tests are done and how often.
CNN: Lung cancer is another major cause of death. What do you think about this?
Wen: The CDC supports lung cancer screening for anyone aged 50 to 80 with a history of heavy smoking, current or recent quit smoking. Annual low-dose computed tomography screening is recommended by the USPSTF; this type of CT scan is available in many hospitals and radiology centers.
CNN: Are there other malignancies people should be screened for, such as pancreatic or ovarian cancer?
Wen: There is insufficient evidence to support routine, continuous screening testing in people with average risk factors for many malignancies, including ovarian, pancreatic, thyroid, and skin cancer. Ask your doctor about the advantages of screening if you have a certain type of cancer in your family. It goes without saying that you should visit your doctor if you experience any symptoms, such as a new growth on your neck or a skin color that changes in appearance.
CNN: Many people can't remember the last time they had a screening test, especially if they've moved or changed healthcare provider. How can they determine when they should get it done?
Wen: If you go to the same doctor all the time, you can call and ask when your last screening tests were done. Your healthcare system should keep these records if you have changed your doctor but are still part of the same hospital network. If your provider has an electronic patient portal, you can access them.
If you have had the same insurance provider for several years, contacting them is another option. Your most recent preventive tests should also be recorded in them. You can also contact your former service providers. Keeping copies of your old medical records on hand will allow them to be compared with the results of recent tests, which is usually a good idea.
CNN: What happens if you fail many scans? Would you recommend catching up as fast as possible?
Yes, Wen. For various reasons, many patients skip their screening exams. Perhaps the delays were due to Covid-19 phobia. Maybe they moved or changed careers. Perhaps their life has become hectic because they have children, grandchildren, or other additional care duties. Schedule your upcoming tests as soon as you know when they are due.
Highly processed foods often contain too much added sugar and salt, little dietary fiber, and many chemical additives such as synthetic colors, flavors or stabilizers. Research links highly processed foods to cancer and premature death; I would like to add that the same applies to other preventive measures. Verify that your screenings are on schedule for chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, and others. You can learn about these diseases and start addressing them as potential problems as soon as they are identified.
CNN: Some people are still quite worried about their potential to get Covid-19 during exams. What would you recommend to them?
Wen: Healthcare facilities are generally very cautious and are making various efforts to reduce the risk of Covivirus 19. People who are concerned about contracting Covid-19 should find out what mitigation measures are in place at the facility where they will be tested. For example, does everyone on staff cover up when seeing patients? Remember that one-way masking works wonders with a good mask. You may wear an N95 or equivalent mask during a mammogram, Pap test, or doctor's appointment. For colonoscopies this may not be possible throughout the entire process, but the colonoscopy will most likely be done in a room where the others are completely covered.
You can further reduce your risk of contracting a serious illness by keeping your coronavirus supplements up to date. You can also benefit from the Evusheld inhibitor antibody if you are eligible.
Finally, it is crucial to contextualize the risk of Covid-19. We need to think about being healthy both physically and mentally in a holistic sense, which includes following preventive health services such as cancer screenings. The absence of the coronavirus is not the only indicator of good health.