It’s no surprise that COVID-19 has changed some of our habits — with staying home often topping the list. But along with avoiding public spaces, some people may be avoiding their doctor’s office, delaying routine preventive care and procedures.
In fact, more than 40% of adults in the U.S. have delayed medical care due to concerns about COVID-19, including 31.5% who bypassed preventive care, according to a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report. These kinds of delays may mean missed opportunities to better manage chronic conditions, receive timely routine vaccinations or early detection of new conditions, which may negatively impact your long-term health and well-being.
Some of the most commonly delayed preventive services in 2020 compared to 2019 (based on an HCCI report, "The Impact of COVID-19 on the Use of Preventive Health Care") are:
- childhood immunizations, down about 30%
- mammograms, down roughly 30%
- colonoscopies, down about 40%
Putting off these important preventive services may lead to missed diagnoses or delayed care. For instance, mammograms can be incredibly effective at detecting breast cancer early – sometimes up to three years before the cancer can be felt, potentially leading to better chances of survival. The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends that women age 40 and older get a screening mammogram every one to two years.
Similarly, colonoscopies can be an essential tool for detecting colon cancer, as early stages may not produce symptoms. The USPSTF recommends that people with average risk of colon cancer begin screenings starting at age 50.
If it’s been a while since you’ve seen your doctor or received routine preventive care, consider making an appointment soon — to help you stay healthy in the year ahead.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, many health care providers are taking necessary precautions to help ensure the safety of both patients and staff while delivering preventive services. This may include things like wearing face masks, frequent sanitizing of common areas, social distancing practices and additional screening or temperature checks at clinic entrances. When making your appointment, ask your doctor’s office to discuss what changes you can expect for your visit to help you prepare.