Cancer did not wait for the pandemic to end, and early local numbers suggest that the rate of breast cancer is ticking up in part because women delayed routine medical screenings out of fear of infection from the new coronavirus.
Doctors in the Cincinnati region say that while demand for their services rose in 2021 after a pandemic-induced slump in 2020, they still are not seeing patients at 2019 levels. The doctors reiterated a warning, which health care leaders have expressed through the pandemic: Delayed medical care could mean a rise in cancer, heart disease, mental illness, asthma, diabetes and other ailments.
“The numbers are still low,” said Dr. Mary Mahoney, chief of imaging at UC Health. “If somebody wants to make a new year’s resolution about getting back into their health care maintenance, that would be a good idea.”
While emphasizing that the data are raw, Mahoney said breast cancer screenings at UC Health are already showing a worrisome trend. “If we were seeing 20 new cancers a month on a normal basis, and in 2020, we saw five to 10 in a month, now in 2021, we’re back up to 20 a month,” although the number of screenings is at 89% of 2019.
The sooner a clump of cells is found to be cancerous, the sooner treatment can start and make cancer a manageable condition, Mahoney said.
The slow return of patients to medical offices and screening centers has been a major worry for the hospital systems in Ohio. In March 2020, Gov. Mike DeWine shut down all nonessential surgeries and procedures for six weeks to allow hospitals to handle the first wave of the new coronavirus infections.
Ohio’s hospitals took an estimated $4 billion hit from that shutdown, a cost that federal pandemic funding through the CARES Act largely but not entirely covered. But hospital leaders have frequently spoken of their worries about people with heart attacks and fast-growing cancers that get neglected.
Mahoney said in talking with her radiology patients, the impact of the pandemic on their health lasts far longer than the six-week shutdown. “It’s everything. They lost their jobs, and then their insurance, and they lost childcare and the kids were out of school. There wasn’t time to get in.”
Dr. Louito Edje is associate dean of graduate medical education at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. She also has a lively social media presence answering concerns about the pandemic.
Nationally, 41% percent of adults reported they avoided medical care because of the pandemic, Edje said. Her urging, especially for women: “It’s never too late to catch up.”
Edje pointed out for many residents of the region hit hard from the pandemic’s economic fallout, “Preventive services are sort of a luxury.” Health care providers can help lower barriers.
“If a patient is coming in for something like their allergies are bad, recognize it as an opportunity to talk about prevention as well,” Edje said. “Tell them, ‘while you’re here, let’s set you up to get your mammogram, and let’s talk about your colonoscopy.’ Re-engage them.”
Knowing your health baseline, through mammography, colon cancer screening and physicals with blood draws, helps you make smart choices in 2022, said Dr. Yasir Khan, a bariatric and general surgeon at the Jewish Hospital Mercy Health. Some screenings, such as for colorectal cancer, can be done at home and mailed to a lab for testing.
When a doctor “is able to catch a polyp before it becomes a cancer, that’s a very easy treatable procedure,” Khan said. “if a person waits six months, 12 months, a year or more, then it becomes a cancer, and potentially that has ramifications, chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, and that could have been prevented with early screening.”
Khan said he’d like to see patients coming back in for routine checkups “to look at blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol. That’s where it starts, with basic regular care.”
Resolve to get a mammogram early in new year
Mercy Health mammography van stops in January
Appointments at 513-686-3300 or 855-746-5123. Walk-ins available but appointments are preferred as you may otherwise experience a wait.
- Dillards, 6290 Glenway Ave., Green Township, 8:30 a.m. Jan. 6.
- Kroger, 11390 Montgomery Road., Symmes Township, 8 a.m. Jan. 10.
- Kroger, 6388 Branch Hill Guinea Pike, Loveland, 1 p.m. Jan. 10.
- Everybody Fitness, 7060 Ridgetop Drive, West Chester, 8:30 a.m. Jan. 13.
- Kroger/The Little Clinic, 3636 Springfield Pike, Colerain Township, 8:30 a.m. Jan. 13-14.
- Rookwood Commons, 2637 Edmondson Road, Norwood, 8 a.m. Jan. 14.
- Walgreens, 3105 Glendale Milford Road., Evendale, 8 a.m. Jan. 18.
- Kroger, 8421 Winton Road, Finneytown, 8:30 a.m. Jan. 18.
- Kroger, 1212 W. Kemper Road, Forest Park, 8:30 a.m. Jan. 25.
- Kroger/The Little Clinic, 560 Wessel Drive, Fairfield 8:30 a.m. Jan. 26.
- Lincoln Heights Clinic, 1401 Steffen Ave., 8:30 a.m., Jan. 26.
- Wyoming Recreation Center, 9940 Springfield Pike, Woodlawn, 8 a.m. Jan. 26.
- Mount Healthy Clinic, 1411 Compton Road, 1 p.m. Jan. 27.
UC Health mammography van stops in January
Appointments at 513-584-7465. Walk-ins are available but appointments are preferred as you may otherwise experience a wait.
- Northside Health Center, 3917 Spring Grove Ave., 8-11 a.m., Jan. 5.
- St. Paul United Church of Christ, 6997 Hamilton Ave., North College Hill, 1-3 p.m. Jan. 6.
- UC Health Primary Care (Montgomery), 9275 Montgomery Road., 8-10:30 a.m. Jan. 7.
- UC Health Primary Care (Midtown), 3590 Lucille Drive, Columbia Township, 12:30-3 p.m. Jan. 7.
- Jungle Jim’s, 5440 Dixie Highway, Fairfield, 8-11 a.m. Jan. 12.
- Jungle Jim’s, 4450 Eastgate South Drive, Union Township, 1-3 p.m., Jan. 12.
- City of Hillsboro, 125 N. High St., Hillsboro, 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Jan. 13.
- UC Health Primary Care, 6645 Princeton Glendale Road, Liberty Township, 8-11 a.m. Jan. 18.
- UC Health Primary Care, 300 Chamber Drive, Milford, 1-3 p.m. Jan. 18.
- UC Health Primary Care (Midtown), 3590 Lucille Drive, Columbia Township, 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Jan. 21.
- YMCA Blue Ash, 5000 YMCA Drive., 8-11 a.m., Jan. 24.
- Price Hill Medical Center, 2136 W. Eighth St., Lower Price Hill, 8-11 a.m. Jan. 26.
- UC Health Primary Care, 68 Cavalier Blvd., Florence, 1-3 p.m. Jan. 27.
- UC Health Primary Care, 9313 Mason-Montgomery Road, Deerfield Township, 8-9:30 a.m. Jan. 31.
- UC Health Primary Care, 175 W. Galbraith Road, Wyoming, 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Jan. 31.
TriHealth mammography: 513-569-6777
Christ Hospital Health Network mammography: 513-585-2668
St. Elizabeth Healthcare mammography: 859-655-7400