Postponed wellness check-ups may cause more cancer related deaths

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DANVILLE, Ill. (WCIA) — “Who knew that this would lead to a myriad of different things,” Dr. Jomel Labayog, medical director at OSF Cancer Center, said. “Worse outcomes.”

Doctors are trying to help in the fight against Covid-19, but now they may have another problem on their hands. Several people had their annual checkups postponed during the height of the pandemic, but now that problem is potentially causing more people to die.

The American Cancer Society and the a medical director at the Danville OSF Cancer Center. They highly encouraged everyone to make sure to get your annual check up. They said while you may think you can prolong it, going to get checked may save your life.

“When the pandemic started, many medical professionals diverted what was considered routine medical care across the country, which immediately halted lots and lots of cancer screenings,” Kaitlyn Keen, American Cancer Society, said.

When Covid-19 was first reported, a lot of hospitals and clinics postponed annual physicals, cancer screenings, and more, but that is not the only reason people pushed back their wellness checks.

“Diagnostic tests were delayed because of the Covid because of a lot of reasons, right. People were afraid of coming to the hospital, there wasn’t enough staff to do procedures,” Dr. Labayog said.

While Covid is still around, some hospitals, like OSF, are allowing check-ups once again, but since annual appointments were delayed, people are finding their cancer too late.

“For lung cancer and colon cancers, yes, we’ve seen a shift change from stages 2, from stages 1-2 to 4 probably a little bit more in light of maybe 20 percent more,” Dr. Labayog said.

“We know that early detection is the key to good outcomes and that later stage diagnoses are associated with increased mortality and harder to treat,” Keen said.

Both medical professionals say early detection for cancer is key so the delay even if a few month can be detrimental.

“Depending on the type of cancer and the individual and the overall risk, a couple months can be significant in terms of prognosis,” Keen said.

Now, while we’re still in the fight against Covid, even more deaths are expected.

“We estimate that we could see up to 10,000 additional preventable cancer deaths and that’s conservative,” Keen said. “This will have an impact on cancer incidents and mortality for decades to come.”

The doctor from OSF told me the pandemic mixed with seeing people come in with heightened stages of cancer is really causing a mental toll. He said its hard because they want to help people and now people are having worse outcomes.

OSF said they’re encouraging people to get their checkups and offering same-day and next-day appointments.

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