Stay Up-to-Date on Regular Health Screenings, Even During COVID-19 Pandemic
Individuals of all ages should get regular checkups at the doctor’s office to keep up on health screenings, but the COVID-19 pandemic may cause some people to hesitate. In 2020, four in 10 adults in the United States reported avoiding getting medical care because of COVID-19 concerns. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also reported an 87 percent decline in breast cancer screenings and 84 percent decline in cervical cancer tests in April 2020.
“Routine health screenings can detect serious health issues early,” says Dan Daly, administrator at Lawton Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. “Rather than skipping these important screenings, talk to your doctor about how they can be done safely.”
In some cases, nonemergency procedures may have been delayed to conserve resources. Some people may have also avoided visiting the doctor because they feared exposure to COVID-19. Despite these concerns, it is vital that people get back on track with routine screenings to stay healthy and treat any issues that arise. Here are a few health screenings individuals should not miss.
Cancer screenings may be considered elective during a national healthcare crisis like a pandemic, but they are critical for a person’s health and wellbeing. During the pandemic, cancer screenings in particular may have been delayed to conserve resources devoted to COVID-19.
It is important for people to get back on schedule with cancer screenings rather than skip them entirely. Women should be checked regularly for cervical cancer and breast cancer, and all older adults should be screened for colon cancer. Depending on lifestyle and health history, other cancer screenings may be necessary as well. Be sure to consult with your healthcare provider to ensure you are staying up to date on your cancer screenings.
Cholesterol levels are often checked during routine doctor visits, and these visits may have happened a lot less often since the start of the pandemic. According to one study, researchers found that up to 92 percent fewer cholesterol tests were performed between March and May of 2020 when compared to the same period in 2019.
However, high cholesterol didn’t take a break during that time. In the same study, people who did receive cholesterol tests during the early pandemic months had much lower cholesterol than people who got tested later. Cholesterol testing is critical for heart health, especially since high cholesterol does not have any symptoms but can put people at risk for heart disease or strokes.
Diabetes Testing and Treatment
Diabetes is a serious condition that can lead to heart disease, organ damage, and other complications when it is not treated and managed well. Although people with diabetes have a higher chance of developing serious complications from COVID-19, there is some evidence that diagnosis and treatment of this condition decreased during the pandemic.
One study in Italy found that there were 23 percent fewer new cases of diabetes in 2020 compared to 2019, and the cases had a higher proportion of severe symptoms. Testing for diabetes can lead to earlier diagnosis and prevent sudden, serious symptoms that are often the first sign of the condition.
Routine checkups at the doctor’s office include measuring a person’s blood pressure to help spot hypertension and get it treated. Delaying these appointments during the pandemic could mean some people may miss out on this important screening.
Not only could the pandemic lead to a delay in diagnosis, but researchers also found that people’s blood pressure increased during 2020. Staying at home, eating less healthy food, and dealing with stress may have contributed to average blood pressure measurements increasing. Untreated high blood pressure, or hypertension, can lead to serious heart problems like heart attacks, vascular disease, and stroke.
While some checkups might seem minor, they help watch for serious health issues like cancer and heart disease. Talk with your doctor about catching up on any screenings you may have missed and address any concerns you may have about getting a checkup during COVID-19.