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Local 5 - weareiowa.com | Des Moines Local News & Weather | Des Moines, Iowa

Despite delays, doctors urge patients to keep up with cancer screenings

Putting off screenings will lead to thousands of additional cancer deaths in the next decade, according Dr. Deming with MercyOne Cancer Center in Des Moines.

PELLA, Iowa — Pella resident Susan Canfield received a letter from her doctor in the middle of the pandemic.

It said, in part, "Due to our present circumstances with COVID-19, we are unable to do screening mammograms at this time."

So, like thousands of Americans nationwide, she waited.

Eventually, three months past due, she went to see her doctor who spotted a something during the exam.

"Four or five days later, I found out that it was malignant," Canfield said.

Now, Canfield is urging others not to delay any further. A recent social media post on the topic received dozens of responses. 

"Lots of people saying, 'Thanks for the reminder.'"

Her message echoes that of Dr. Richard Deming, medical director of the MercyOne Cancer Center in Des Moines.

"We were so effective in in scaring some people at the very beginning and saying 'You don't need to get your cancer screening right now we need to focus on other things' that I think some people then question, 'Well, maybe it isn't that important,'" Deming said.

Even though cancer many health care providers have returned to their full slate of screenings, Deming said some may still be putting off their checkups because of coronavirus concerns.

"We need to do what's right and what's healthy, we need to wear our face masks, we need to wash our hands, we need to socially distance, we need to continue to get our cancer screenings," he said.

According to Deming, between March and September 2020, cancer screenings were down by about 80%. He said when it comes to colon cancer and breast cancer alone, there could be 10,000 additional deaths as a result of those delayed or missed screenings.

Now that Canfield has gone through the tests, a surgery, and several rounds of radiation, she knows firsthand patients shouldn't be worried about gettnig screened.

"I wasn't treated any differently. I wasn't treated like, 'Oh, you have COVID, I don't want to be around you' or 'Oh, we can't be close because of COVID,'" Canfield said. "Everyone's been kind, caring, and professional throughout the whole process."

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