St. Vincent’s Hospital officials say delayed cancer screenings are causing more severe disease

Cancer screenings down due to pandemic
Published: Sep. 5, 2021 at 10:35 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Doctors with St. Vincent’s Hospital said they are seeing more people with advanced and severe cancers because of delaying screenings due to the pandemic.

St. Vincent’s oncologist Dr. Carter Capra said hospitals across the country saw a large drop in preventative screening tests at the start of the pandemic and St. Vincent’s is still seeing a drop.

Capra said at the start of the pandemic, the American Cancer Society reported an 87% drop in breast cancer screenings, a 90% drop in colon cancer screenings, and 94% drop in cervical cancer screenings.

Capra said St. Vincent’s saw similar numbers, but they are going up now. He said for colon cancer screenings, the hospital is only back up to 75 percent of their pre- pandemic numbers. He said that is good, but not everyone who missed their tests in 2020 have come back in to get them this year. Capra said they need to be at more than 100% to make up for all the missed screenings.

He said screenings are preventative and different than diagnostic tests.

“If you do not get that screening test, and you have that disease and you don’t know it yet, that disease will eventually show itself and you will eventually have a problem,” Capra said. “You will eventually be diagnosed at likely a later stage where the outcome may not be the same as if you find it early.”

Capra said he has seen patients recently with more advanced cancers because they did not get preventative tests. He said had they come in earlier, they could have potentially had more treatment options, like surgeries.

“Just in the last month, I have met patients each with these cancers that had advanced disease that would have been eligible for a screening test,” he said. “It wasn’t preformed.”

Capra said screenings are the best way to save people from advanced cancer and can be done at the hospital or at your doctor’s office.

He said at St. Vincent’s, COVID-19 protocol is in place, so you are not at risk of catching the virus by coming to the hospital.

“The more people you can screen when appropriate, the more early stage disease you can diagnose and the more people you can save,” Capra said.

Capra said unless you are on medication for the disease, an undiagnosed cancer will not make you more susceptible to COVID-19.

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