Cancer Screenings and COVID-19

In 2021, cancer stories will begin “First, my cancer screening was postponed…”

Ever heard anyone say: “at least it’s the good kind of cancer?” Really? Is there a good kind of cancer? Of course not. But I would say it’s undisputed that if you’re going to have cancer, you want one that is detected early. Why? Cancer screening, early detection, and diagnosis have been proven to significantly improve patient survival rates and quality of life(1). That’s not just good news, that’s GREAT news!

The bad news? In this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, routine cancer screenings have been postponed(2). Perhaps personally, waiting a few months to have your scheduled cancer screening could make little difference. Nationally, however, the impact of postponing routine cancer screenings for months could be huge. Consider the typical frequency of two types of screenings:

– 65.3% US women over 40 had mammograms from 2013-2015(3).
– 67.6% US men and women over 50 had colorectal screenings in 2014(4).

That amounts to hundreds of millions of screenings each year and hundreds of thousands of screenings each month – for just these two types of screenings. Because routine screenings, such as mammograms and colorectal exams, are now being postponed, we will have a lot of catching up to do after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.

The nation is focusing on combating the serious concern of inadequate medical supplies necessary to survive this pandemic. The cancer community must also prepare for the overwhelming wave of cancer screenings, as well as the results of those screenings, coming after the postponement of routine screenings is lifted. The outcome of this wave of cancer screenings will not only impact cancer centers and hospitals, but also social service agencies, non-profits, and religious ministries which serve the cancer community.

In the meantime, what can you do?

  1. If you are having symptoms, call your doctor. This policy to postpone routine screenings does not apply to anyone having symptoms. Symptoms are a reason to be screened regardless of the COVID-19 restrictions in your area.
  2. If you have missed your regularly scheduled screening, reschedule as soon as you are able to. In this time of crisis, it is common to focus on immediate needs, such as furloughed jobs or loved ones living alone. Yet it is still important to care for urgent health concerns like cancer screenings.
  3. If you are unsure whether you are in need of a cancer screening, contact a doctor. The need for a cancer screening is determined by multiple factors such as age, current medical conditions, family medical history, etc.

Don’t let this time of national and world-wide tension push you to neglect your cancer screening. Your desire to avoid the possibility of receiving bad news is defeated by the proven benefits of getting your screening. The best weapon against cancer is early detection. Did you catch that? The best weapon against cancer is early detection. Schedule your cancer screening today.

BIO: Karen Tripp MS LMFT Author, Counselor and Executive Director Cancer Companions – As author of multiple books on cancer such as God is Bigger Than Your Cancer and a daughter of a colon cancer survivor, Karen brings her training as a Marriage and Family Therapist to her work with cancer families. Whether in her counseling, speaking, or administration of the nonprofit, Cancer Companions, Karen gives wisdom and meaning to coping with the chaos we call cancer. She, too, is currently awaiting a colonoscopy, which has been postponed due to the Coronavirus Crisis.


  1. “World Cancer Day 2019: Emphasis on Early Detection.” The ASCO Post, edited by James O. Armitage, ASCO, 4 Feb. 2019, www.ascopost.com/News/59711.
  2. Falco, Miriam. “Common Questions About the New Coronavirus Outbreak.” Cancer.org, American Cancer Society, 21 Apr. 2020, www.cancer.org/latest-news/common-questions-about-the-new-coronavirus-outbreak.html.
  3. National Center for Health Statistics.Health, United States, 2018. Hyattsville, MD. 2019.
  4. American Cancer Society. Colorectal Cancer Facts & Figures 2017-2019. Atlanta: American Cancer Society; 2017.
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