HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - While hospitals during the pandemic were inundated with COVID-19 patients, other patients with routine screenings and procedures steered clear of their doctors' offices.
"In March when this started, there was concern there would be so many patients that it would overwhelm the system, and so initially we said we would delay screenings because of that," said Dr. John Sayles with Sentara Medical Group.
Now Sentara is urging patients to call and be seen and screened for certain cancers.
"The more quickly you can find them, the better they are when you can treat them," Sayles said.
He urges patients that are due for colonoscopies, mammograms and even pap smears to make an appointment.
"Screening is the best thing to find them at early stages," Sayles said. "Many cancers do not present symptoms until they are at a late stage, and by that time there is a lesser chance for patients to make a full recovery."
National data released from Sentara’s electronic medical records vendor, Epic, shows a drastic decline in cancer screenings for cervix, colon and breast cancers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Epic data shows appointments for those screenings were down between 86% and 94% in March 2020, compared to average volumes in the three years before.
Sayles says the Sentara Cancer Network is seeing similar data here locally.
"We have all sorts of safeguards in place right now, everyone in surgery is tested for COVID and many are before screenings as well," he said. "Don't delay, early detection is key."
To schedule a cancer screening or necessary procedure with Sentara, click here.