In conjunction with National Cancer Prevention Month this February and with declines in cancer screenings during the coronavirus pandemic, Dr. Lev Davidson, director of Northwell Health’s Cancer Institute at Northern Westchester Hospital (NWH), urges patients to discuss cancer screening with their physicians.
“Patients are putting off screenings until it’s potentially too late for effective treatment because the disease has advanced so far,” says Dr. Davidson. “This is an unnecessary tragedy. While no two people have the same cancer risk, those at high risk due to heredity or other factors, should not delay screening.”
The downward trend in cancer screenings is worrisome. In 2020, the American Cancer Society’s statistics report noted a 29% decline in the cancer death rate between 1991 and 2017. Findings released in May by the Epic Health Research Network showed that preventive screenings for cervical, colon and breast cancer from a data set of 2.7 million patients declined between 86 and 94% in March 2020 compared with average volumes in the prior three years. As of summer of 2020, the National Cancer Institute predicted that declines in screenings for colon and breast cancer could result in 10,000 lives lost.
“Many people have postponed cancer screenings due to fears of contracting Coronavirus during a visit to a hospital or physician office,” says Dr. Davidson. “Certain cancers require in-person diagnostic tests, while others, such as colon cancer, may have an at home test kit option for people who are at low risk. There are now alternatives to screening that are better than not screening at all, and telehealth is an excellent option for having that discussion with your physician.
“The availability of virtual resources permits patients to talk to their physician to assess whether they need a cancer screening, or can safely postpone a screening and reassess later,” he adds, “Much of this depends on whether the screening is routine or whether there are symptoms and the nature of the symptoms. It is very important to have these discussions with your physician to assess the situation.”
Dr. Davidson advises that, “When you come to Northern Westchester Hospital for a screening, we have measures in place to assess your health before you arrive and to monitor you when you are here, as well as strict protocols that make patient visits safe.”
NWH’s safety measures include thermal cameras for temperature checks, pre-screenings, social distancing, mask mandates, limited visitation, strict cleaning protocols, and spreading out patient appointments to limit waiting room traffic.
For more information on the Northwell Health Cancer Institute at Northern Westchester Hospital, visit https://nwh.northwell.edu/cancer-institute
Dr. Lev Davidson, director of Northwell Health’s Cancer Institute at Northern Westchester Hospital (NWH)