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Cancer screenings decline during coronavirus pandemic

COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)

Reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show cancer screenings, specifically breast cancer, declined during the pandemic, which has led to doctors finding cancer in patients later.

Breast cancer screenings decreased by 87%, according to the CDC, and cervical cancer decreased by 84%. The study published by the CDC shows the decline correlates with the increase in COVID-19 cases at the beginning of the pandemic.

The largest decline in cancer screening was seen in women of color, and rural areas were more affected than urban areas.

Amy DeGroff, health scientist and lead author of the CDC study, encouraged people and health care professionals to be proactive about cancer screenings.

“The Early Detection Program can help women overcome barriers to health equity by educating them about the importance of routine screening, addressing their concerns about COVID-19 transmission, and helping them to safely access screening through interventions like patient navigation," DeGroff said.

Boone Hospital and University of Missouri Health Care had to stop providing precautionary cancer screenings at the height of the pandemic, but now that they're back operating, doctors say patients still aren't coming in at normal rates.

Dr. Anne Peterson, a breast surgeon with Boone Hospital, told ABC 17 some of her patients were afraid to go to the hospital during the pandemic.

"As we started we still had some women who we expected to see in our routine follow ups who weren't comfortable coming to a hospital to get a mammogram," Peterson said.

Peterson said it may be difficult to get an appointment since hospitals are experiencing staffing issues.

"Staffing in hospitals is just as affected as staffing at all of our local restaurants and everywhere else," Peterson said.

Dr. Mark Wakefield, interim director of the Ells Fischel Cancer Center at MU Health Care, said the long term consequences of skipping heath screenings could be dire.

"It's likely that there will be, as the consequence of decreased screenings, some increased mortality and morbidity," Wakefield said.

Check back for updates to this developing story and watch ABC 17 News at 6:30.

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Hannah Falcon

Hannah joined the ABC 17 News Team from Houston, Texas, in June 2021. She graduated from Texas A&M University. She was editor of her school newspaper and interned with KPRC in Houston. Hannah also spent a semester in Washington, D.C., and loves political reporting.

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