Doctors warn not to delay important medical appointments amid pandemic

Updated: Apr. 12, 2021 at 6:07 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - If you’ve put off or skipped needed medical care during the COVID-19 pandemic, you’re in the same boat as a lot of people. Doctors are worried this delayed care can have harmful consequences.

A lot of people are behind on important doctor visits.

“Whether it’s colon cancer screening, breast cancer screening or routine healthcare, COVID has had a real significant impact,” Dr. Joseph Flynn, chief administrative officer for Norton Medical Group and physician-in-chief for Norton Cancer Institute said. “When you think initially the delay was profound and it was a couple of reasons. One, we had state mandates around routine care. The fears early on were profound.”

Many doctors’ offices are now busy working in overdue patients, with some offices expanding hours and continuing to offer telemedicine.

Doctors fear in the near future, the year-long delays in patients seeking medical care could cause worsening health conditions, delayed diagnoses and earlier deaths.

“People always say what keeps you up at night,” Flynn said. “This exact thing keeps me up at night. In England so far and in some other places, they looked at some modeling to see what impact delays can have in care and you can have a 15 percent increase in mortality in cancer by waiting too long.”

Flynn says while COVID and the vaccine are so important, people can’t lose sight of other conditions.

“If you look at cause of death this year cancer and heart disease still reign supreme,” Flynn said. “If it’s screening you do have some wiggle room you aren’t having symptoms. That is different from the person who felt a lump and put off getting seen.”

If you are behind on that pap smear, mammogram, colonoscopy, or general checkup, call your doctor’s office. If they can’t get you in, ask what your options are.

Flynn said he’s also worried about children getting behind on visits too. Parents are advised to call their child’s pediatrician to make sure they are seen as well.

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