Why It's Important Not To Delay Preventive Screenings

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With COVID-19 cases climbing, many people are concerned about visiting their primary healthcare provider for wellness visits and preventive health screenings. But delaying care because of the pandemic may not be the best idea.

"Whether you need lab work, a blood pressure check or a preventive screening exam, it's important to check in with your healthcare provider," says Hina Syed, M.D., a family medicine physician at Henry Ford Health System. 

Get Preventive Screenings

Heart disease and cancer are still the nation's top killers, with diabetes trailing shortly behind. So even in the age of COVID-19, it's best to stay current with your screening exams and disease management regimens.

"It's especially important to get recommended cancer screening exams," Syed says. "If you are behind on those, you can miss that critical window where you can get potential lifesaving treatment." In fact, according to a recent study, the risk of cancer death jumps about 10% for every month of delayed care.

Critical cancer screening exams include:

  • Pap smears for cervical cancer screening
  • Mammograms for breast cancer screening
  • Colonoscopies for colorectal cancer screening
  • Low-dose computed tomography (CT) scans for lung cancer screening

While health authorities have issued general guidelines for each of these screening exams, you should work with your provider to devise a schedule that's right for you. If you have a family history of breast cancer, for example, you might have your first mammogram at age 35 or 40 instead of age 50.

People who have uncontrolled health conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes and asthma not only have a higher risk of developing COVID-19, they're also more likely to suffer from complications. "If you have a chronic health condition, it's really important to keep your physician appointments," Dr. Syed says.

Make an appointment for a doctor's visit, mammogram or flu shot online now. 

Create a Prevention Plan

An effective prevention plan requires regular visits to your primary care provider. During these visits, your provider will take a detailed history, analyze your specific health behaviors and come up with a plan that makes sense for your unique circumstances.

Recommended screening exams may include:

  • Breast exam
  • Blood pressure checks
  • Cholesterol screening
  • Colonoscopy
  • Glucose test
  • Pap smear (for cervical cancer screening)
  • PSA (for prostate cancer screening)
  • Sexually transmitted infections
  • Skin exam
  • Testicular exam

Vaccinations for adults may include (depending on age and health status):

"A wellness visit is also an opportunity to address your stressors," Dr. Syed says. "These are challenging times for all of us. If you're struggling with depression or anxiety, we can help."

Nervous about seeking care right now? Talk to your doctor about which screening exams and vaccines you can safely delay and which require immediate attention. You can also arrange a virtual visit to come up with an appropriate screening schedule.

Stay Safe and Healthy

Staying safe and healthy is more challenging than ever before. The best way to navigate the obstacles: Work with your doctor to ensure you're up to date with preventive care.

"If it has been over a year, call and schedule an appointment, especially if you're behind on routine screenings," Dr. Syed says. "There are several conditions that can increase your risk of prolonged illness and death."

If you have symptoms that might indicate heart disease, or you haven't had a cancer screening exam in years, it's important to check in with your doctor. Not only are these diseases life-threatening on their own, but they can also increase your risk of developing complications if you contract COVID-19.

Rest assured, healthcare providers are taking every safety precaution to protect against COVID-19 exposure in their facilities, including requiring masks, frequent cleaning, minimizing the number of people in the building, encouraging social distancing and handwashing, and having hand sanitizer on hand.

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To find a doctor or make an appointment at Henry Ford, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936).  Learn more about our safety precautions and response to COVID-19

Dr. Hina Syed practices family medicine at Henry Ford Medical Center – Canton, where she sees patients of all ages.

Categories: FeelWell