Why It's Not Safe to Keep Delaying Your Routine Screenings

February 03, 2021

The pandemic has upset just about every apple cart in the past year. For some, that resulted in delaying or missing routine health screenings. Whether facilities were closed or patients feared the virus, the result was the same: fewer people coming in for their annual health screenings and putting themselves at risk for more serious complications in the future. 

Early Detection is Key
For Shore Cancer Center oncologist and hematologist Dr. Tiffany Pompa, early detection is key. She said it is very important to follow your physician’s recommendations and schedule and follow through with screenings accordingly. “It is all about prevention, early detection and treatment that can save a life. Early diagnosis leads to the best chance of a cure,” said Dr. Pompa. 

Screenings Take a Good Look 
Lung cancer takes too many lives each year. Routine lung cancer screening could help save lives by detecting any irregularities or nodules in the lung tissue earlier, before the patient has symptoms. Early detection in lung cancer is when it is most treatable. 

Like routine lung cancer screening, annual mammograms are looking for any irregularities and where early detection has the best chance. Other screenings such as when a patient goes in for their routine colonoscopy the doctor is looking to see if anything is irregular in the colon and surrounding area. Long before there are any symptoms, polyps could be discovered and easily removed and they are fine.  If they put that colonoscopy off for six months to a year, the outcome could be different and the polyps could be larger and their removal more complex. 

Dr. Pompa said regular screenings are very important. “Regular screenings are where we catch things. Before the patient has any symptoms, a screening will allow us to see if something is irregular.  Remember that cancer starts off as only a few cells. When cancer is causing symptoms, often times that will mean that it is advanced,” said Dr. Pompa. 

No Two Cancers are the Same
There is no cookie cutter plan for how to treat a patient with cancer. The one constant is that early detection saves lives. Dr. Pompa said different cancers will progress at different rates and durations. The amount of time it takes for one cell to divide or a group of cells or a tumor to double in size varies from cancer to cancer so early detection leads to better outcomes for every patient. 

Delays Can Change the Treatment Plan
Missing or delaying a routine screening for six months or a year can make a difference in the treatment options the physician may choose. “Six months to a year is a big difference and detecting a cancer early or finding it a year later can mean the difference between curable and a non-curable,” said Dr. Pompa. “It is very true, early detection saves lives.” 

A Dire Warning
In July 2020 the National Cancer Institute director, Dr. Normal Sharpless, issued a warning about the dangers of the pandemic to past, present and future cancer patients. The bottom line: expect a great many more deaths. “Fear of contracting coronavirus in health care settings has dissuaded people from screening, diagnosis, and treatment. The consequences for cancer outcomes could be substantial.”

Quality Care Close to Home 
During the pandemic, Shore Cancer Center, a member of the Penn Cancer Network, continued to treat patients and keep them on track without interruption. Shore Cancer Center is a comprehensive cancer treatment center with a multi-disciplinary team of physicians, radiation therapists, physicists and nurses who work in concert to provide the best cancer care, close to home. Dr. Pompa said she is proud to be a part of the team that is dedicated to providing complete care to her patients. 

Lung Cancer Screening February 27
On Saturday, February 27, Shore is offering free lung cancer screening consultations for eligible people at Shore Cancer Center. During the consultation, Dr. Charles Roche of Shore Physicians Group will talk to you about your smoking history, and if appropriate will recommend a free Low Dose CT screening scheduled at your convenience at Advanced Shore Imaging.  Those who are eligible should be between 55 and 80 years of age and a current smoker or quit smoking in the past 15 years. Even if you have been screened at Shore Medical Center in the past you are still eligible to be screened again, this is an annual screening. To schedule an appointment, call 609-653-3484. The LDCT screening involves lying on a table for several minutes while an X-ray machine uses a low amount of radiation to take detailed images of the lungs looking for any irregularities or nodules in the lung tissue. 

The majority of the time lung nodules are benign but it is important to get screened. Lung cancer screening is for populations that meet the age and smoking history criteria. Early detection saves lives.  

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Tiffany Pompa or another member of the Shore Cancer Center team call 609-653-3585. To learn more about Shore Cancer Center, visit www.shoremedicalcenter.org/centers/cancer.