TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) — The pandemic is creating a new problem when it comes to cancer screenings.
Local hospital officials are urging people to not skip preventative exams due to fear of getting COVID-19.
"We're ready. We're open. We're capable," said Franciscan Health Lafayette Vice President of Medical Affair Dr. Daniel Wickert. "Please come if you need to."
Back in March, the pandemic caused hospitals across the country to scale back in order to focus attention on COVID patients.
That included cancer screenings.
"There's about a 70 percent reduction in the number of people that have gotten their colorectal screening, said IU Health Arnett Radiation Oncologist Dr. Matthew Orton. "There's about a 78 percent reduction in people who've gotten their breast screening."
According to a study from the U.s National Cancer Institute, the lack of screenings during that time could lead to a deadly problem.
"That could potentially lead to about a total of 10 thousand extra cancer deaths over the next decade," Orton explained.
Now hospitals are urging people to come in and get their annual screenings. That includes mammograms, pap smears, and colonoscopies.
"Please come in if you're having a problem," said Wickert. "Don't wait. Don't delay."
Both IU Health Arnett and Franciscan Health want their patients to know they're taking every step needed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Orton said the benefits outweigh the risk.
"The likelihood of you picking up COVID-19 coming in to get your cancer screening is a lot lower than it would for a lot of the other things you do throughout the week and the other places that you have to go and visit," Orton said.
Putting off a screening could be the difference between life and death.
"The fear is that we will not find problems in the case of breast cancer, in the case of colon cancer," Wickert added. "We'll not find them as early as we possibly could. The earlier we diagnose a problem, the better the outcome potentially is for the individual that has the problem."
Orton said it's also important to keep up with all cancer screenings no matter your age. Those include annual pap smears and dental exams.