Doctors concerned over drastic decline in cancer screenings |

Doctors concerned over drastic decline in cancer screenings

Jessica Miles
Updated: July 02, 2021 09:28 PM
Created: June 30, 2021 05:52 PM

Images from a 3D mammogram taken at Piper Breast Center at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis show a bright white star — a small mass that will need to be biopsied.

It’s a good thing this patient came in, as doctors say many are not.

"We are starting to see some patients come back to the office, but we are not to where we were pre-pandemic, we are definitely not where we were pre-pandemic," said Dr. Christian Squillante with Allina Health Oncology.

Allina says mammograms are down by 27,000 from the end of 2019 versus the end of 2020. And cancer screenings are down 20% overall compared to 2019.

"We are not seeing patients get checked for things like prostate, colon, breast cancer, which means we will catch patients at a less curable stage where we will not be able to do as much for them," Squillante said.

Even more concerning is how this lag in screenings is impacting certain populations.

"We know for Black Americans it is much more a severe problem, the LGBTQ community, too, with lung nodule screening, that was down an additional 40%. COVID only exacerbated some of the equity issues we are addressing at Allina," said Mike Koroscik, vice president of oncology for Allina Health.

Doctors say you should be discussing your health regularly with your physician and doing skin checks, as melanoma is one of the fastest-growing cancers in Minnesota.

Screenings like mammograms, lung scans and colonoscopies should be started at age 40.

"I have been telling patients this is a good time to focus on yourself a little bit. What can you be doing right now to take care of yourself? Talk to your doctor about what you can do to prevent some of these things," Squillante said.

The lack of scheduled screenings is a disheartening after-effect of COVID — one doctors hope rebounds soon.

"Please don't wait, don't put it off, Koroscik said. "It truly is the difference between catching it early and living a full life, and catching it too late."

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