LEXINGTON, Ky. — Medical experts are urging patients to schedule cancer screening as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

What You Need To Know

  • A medical journal study find a significant drop in cancer screenings

  • Kentucky has some of the highest incidents of cancer in the nation

  • Markey Cancer Center offers community health screenings

“Kentucky has some of the highest incident rates of cancer in the nation so you’re already talking about a population that’s at risk,” said Melissa Hounshell is the Community Outreach Director at the Markey Cancer Center.

A new study in the American Society of Clinical Oncology Journal finds an alarming number of people skipped screenings for fear of the coronavirus in 2020. The study found a big dip in screenings last April.

Screenings for breast cancer decreased by 88%.

Colon cancer and prostate cancer screenings dropped 75% and 74%, respectively.

Lung cancer screenings went down 56% 

“It’s just of utmost importance to try to reach these people and assure them,” Hounshell said. “I think that’s the biggest thing right now is to make sure that folks understand that it is safe, it is safe to go to the clinic and get those all-important screenings.”

Nancy Burnett is 61. She spends most of her time at home.

“The tumor has attached itself to the bone and so they had to take out the entire eye in that side of my face,” Burnett said. That was almost a decade ago. She’s now a stage four cancer survivor. “The earlier it’s found the better odds of treatment working and you not having to go through a lot of what I went through with it being stage four before it’s found.”

Since that detection, the Lexington woman has taken cancer screenings more seriously.

“Even though it’s been hard and the pandemic’s out there, cancer is also a killer. And you need to get the screenings done to make sure that you don’t have it,” Burnett said.

In 2020, Burnett did an at-home colon cancer screening test, an alternative offered by the Markey Cancer Center’s Community Health screening programs in Lexington. 

“They found something irregular in the sample, they recommended I go ahead and have the colonoscopy done,” Burnett said.

Fortunately, her results came back clear.

But the study also said in the years after the pandemic, health experts anticipate long term impacts of cancer on patients and making it harder to treat.

Call Kentucky CancerLink at 877-597-4655 to learn more about one of Markey’s community health screening programs (Mamm’s Day Out, Pap in a Snap, FITs) or UK HealthCare to reach a clinical area at 859-257-1000.