Cancer screenings decreased within the last year, NRV health leaders try to turn things around

Updated: May. 21, 2021 at 5:15 PM EDT
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CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. (WDBJ) - Doctors and health leaders conducted dozens of cancer screenings in Christiansburg Friday.

However, health data show annual cancer screenings dipped more than 90% last year due to COVID-19 disruptions.

Health experts warn a delayed cancer screening could mean the “missed” cancer could grow to be more advanced if it goes undetected.

“The thing about cancer is it doesn’t take a break, it doesn’t know there’s a pandemic going on, and so if you do have cancer in your body and it’s spreading, you need to be getting taken care of, but more importantly we want to prevent cancer,” said Dr. Pamela Ray, Population Health Community Coordinator for the New River Health District.

American Cancer Society statistics show screenings for cancers such as cervical, colorectal, lung and breast have decreased because of the COVID-19 pandemic, causing an increase in cancer diagnoses.

“Even If you don’t have a family history of those types of cancers, to be regularly screened for them, because prevention is so much easier than treatment afterwards,” said Dr. Ray.

In general, cancers are easier to treat when caught in their early stages--- for example skin cancer.

“As a group, skin cancer is the most common cancer, even in the United States; one in five people will have one of the lesser aggressive types of cancers, said Dr. Chad Johnston, a dermatologist at River Ridge Dermatology.

The New River Health District and the UVA Cancer Center are teaming with local partners to get folks back to their normal screenings and checkups.

“You know the idea is if we can save one person it’s successful,” said Brad Epperley, director of Parks and Recreation in Christiansburg.

“We need to get back to a normal health routine, and that would include all of the screenings, and not just for cancer; this is all certainly about a cancer event-- but when we think about all of our other screenings, diabetes, hypertension, just regular health screenings that we do need to take care of,” said Dr. Ray

Health leaders hope to have more cancer screenings like this at the Christiansburg Recreation Center again yearly. For now, they encourage you to make the appointment for a screening with your doctor because it’s something you don’t want to miss.

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