Online Originals: Medical experts worry drop in cancer screenings over pandemic could result in higher risk cases


GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — Cancer experts around the country are worried about the consequences the pandemic has had on cancer screenings and what that could mean for thousands of patients.

Medical professionals tell 9OYS they have seen significant delays in cancer screenings over the past year. The National Cancer Institute estimates that these delays could account for over 10,000 deaths over the next ten years, from breast and colorectal cancers alone.

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Dr. Darla Liles, an ECU Professor of Medicine and Chair of Vidant Health’s Cancer Committee, says she and other colleagues saw breast cancer and colonoscopy screenings drop to basically zero.

The reason? Experts say over the pandemic, screenings and getting mammograms just wasn’t at the top of patients’ priorities as many dealt with the impacts of COVID-19.

You know early on, I think people were scared to go out and get mammograms or get tested, but I believe it is safe. Most of our healthcare workers are now well into getting vaccinated and opening things up. So I think it’s much safer now to go ahead and proceed with those screenings.

Dr. Darla Liles, ECU professor of Medicine and Chair of Vidant Health Commission on Cancer Committee

David Williams, radiology manager at the Diagnostic Center and Radiology Center at CarolinaEast Medical Center, said if you’ve missed screening appointments due to the pandemic, not to worry. The important thing is that you go and get screened as soon as possible.

Williams also said his biggest concern is detecting something that their team could have treated and addressed much earlier on.

We see that once a patient misses a screening or two, it then increases their opportunity to miss more screenings because it becomes an out-of-sight-out-of-mind situation.

David Williams, Radiology and Diagnostics at CarolinaEast Medical Center

Williams says scheduling that appointment now could save your life. Both experts say cancers are much curable at stages 1 and 2 but the longer a patient waits to get diagnosed, then they start to see those cancers in stages 3 and 4, where there isn’t as much they can do.

If you’re struggling with insurance, Liles suggests searching for screening events in our region where they specifically cater to people with poor or no insurance.

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