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Routine Screenings Save Lives

COVID-19 posed an obvious health risk to millions of Americans. As the pandemic wore on, the disease began to pose a subtler risk, as well. People delayed seeing their doctors for routine screenings and chronic disease management.

Early on in the pandemic, Hoag implemented enhanced safety measures throughout its health centers and encouraged patients to resume their scheduled health screenings.

Primary care physicians at Hoag reported a gradual return of their patients, but noticed that many of the screening results were more advanced – and harder to treat – than they would have been had people come in for their routine screenings.

“I was relieved to see my patients schedule a visit and get on-top of their health again. The best way to keep chronic conditions stable and detect diseases early is through regular screenings,” said Kurt Armstrong, M.D., from Newport Family Medicine in Newport Beach.

The good news is it’s not too late to get back on track. Routine screening tests can uncover early risk factors, guiding patients toward interventions and lifestyle changes that can prevent chronic illness. And these days no one needs to be reminded that immunizations are a key component of maintaining health. Primary care doctors are eager to offer their patients the tests, screenings and vaccinations that help people maintain a high quality of life.

Some of these tests are so simple, it can be difficult to appreciate how revealing they are. High blood pressure, for example, is a risk factor for cardiovascular and kidney disease, which explains why so many office visits begin with a blood pressure cuff.

Small vials of blood can sound the alarms on elevated risk of heart disease or diabetes.

Cancer prevention and early detection should remain a focus for patients.

“The great irony of these times is that people have been so afraid for their health that they haven’t been taking care of themselves,” said Burton Eisenberg, M.D., executive medical director of Hoag Family Cancer Institute and the Grace E. Hoag Executive Medical Director Endowed Chair. “The National Cancer Institute predicted cancer deaths would rise by 10,000 over the next decade because of COVID-19’s impact on screening delays. After decades of progress in detecting, treating and preventing many types of cancer, this nation is going to face a ‘cancer pandemic’ as a result of delays in routine screenings.”

Mammograms, pelvic exams, prostate cancer screening and blood tests, colonoscopy, oral exams by a dentist for head and neck cancer, low dose CT scans for smokers at risk of lung cancer and skin cancer screenings with a dermatologist are each routine and should all be scheduled regularly, to not only detect cancer, but catch it as early as possible, when treatment is most effective.

Vaccines are another important tool that physicians have at their disposal to stave off prevent everything from the flu to cancer. There is emerging protection from the HPV vaccine in protecting against cervical cancer.

“We have the power to protect kids against growing up to develop certain cancers,” said Julie Palmisano, MD, FAAP, Hoag Medical Group Pediatrics. “But to protect them in the future, we have to act now.”

In addition, annual flu shots, tetanus every 10 years with a one-time pertussis booster, a shingles vaccine after age 50, and pneumonia vaccine for people over the age of 65 can all lower the risk of debilitating or even deadly complications from their respective diseases. And, of course, the COVID-19 vaccine is helping turn the tables on the pandemic.

For patients who have delayed seeing their physician for fear of COVID-19, don’t put these vital tests off any longer. The world may not be back to its pre-pandemic routine, but it’s time to get back to routine screenings.

Please contact your primary care physician or specialist to schedule your screening today. If you are in need of a physician, please contact our Personal Care Team at 800-400-HOAG (4624) for assistance with finding a physician who meets your needs.