ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The COVID-19 pandemic has seen an increase in the number of people skipping routine healthcare check-ups and screenings.
Area health officials are reminding people of the importance of those appointments, especially because they can have an impact on a patient’s care down the road.
For example, delaying routine care can have an impact on future elective surgeries.
Dr. Tim Wagner, an Orthopedic surgeon at Rochester Regional Health, says he’s seen an impact in his own patients during the pandemic.
“We’re getting some surprises at their pre-testing visits. Things like poorly-managed blood pressure, or diabetes, or more chronic conditions that have been neglected during the last 12 months of the pandemic,” Dr. Wagner explained. “It ultimately hurts the patient’s overall health for things in my scope of practice, which is predominrelty joint replacement, it causes them additional pain.”
If certain health issues or concerns are being missed without regular check-ups, there can be potential delays in getting an elective surgery.
“If my patient has a problem with their blood-sugar management, that’s a bigger problem than their hip or knee because I want them overall to be healthy, happy and live as long of a life as possible,” Dr. Wagner said.
Elective surgeries aren’t the only thing being impacted by the pandemic, screenings for breast cancer are also down nationwide and locally.
“As many as 10-15 percent of the screening patients that never came back in 2020, haven’t come back at all,” said Dr. Stamatia Destounis with Elizabeth Wende Breast Care.
Delays in breast cancer screening can make treatment harder in the future.
“Studies have come out that even a delay of 3 to 6 months from your screening routine, and certainly a delay of a year, will just allow the cancers to be larger when they are identified. So when we do find something, the concern is that it will be larger,” explained Dr. Destounis.
She said it’s important to find cancer when it’s most treatable, which is when it’s small in size.
Elizabeth Wende Breast Care is hoping to get more women screened and will be holding free mammograms for uninsured women over the age of 40 on Saturday, May 8th.
Dr. Destounis says she knows some patients aren’t coming in for screenings because they are worried about the pandemic and getting sick.
“You know the problem that you have with a tumor that’s larger and more advance is much bigger than any concerns or worry that you have about COVID,” she said. “We’re doing everything we can to make it as safe as possible for you.”
Dr. Wagner also says Rochester Regional Health has gotten creative to make sure patients getting elective surgeries are as safe as possible.
For example, they have been offering same-day joint replacements for certain patients. “Where people who are candidates for it and have a supportive home, are able to have their surgery and go home the same day, when traditionally it’s been something where patients stay a night in the hospital,” Dr. Wagner said.
He also said they have been doing more surgeries later in the week so appointments are spread out and so there are less people in the building at the same time.