With health screenings, timing is everything
By Dr. Darren Wethers, Vice President of Clinical Operations, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona
Our world is slowly returning to normal as more Arizonans become vaccinated and restrictions start to lift. Now it is time to catch up on critical health screenings and preventive health visits that have been suspended or delayed due to the pandemic.
A recent study by JAMA Network Open revealed that more than 40% of people in the U.S. have put off medical care. Health insurance organizations, such as Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, have seen an estimated 12% decline in preventive medicine visits since the start of the pandemic. Despite the opportunities provided through virtual care and telehealth, one in three members missed a preventive care visit, and more than a quarter missed an outpatient general medical appointment.
You have heard this a hundred times before, and it still stands true — early detection is the best prevention. Delaying a screening, or going without one, can cause significant challenges since many conditions can be more difficult to treat as they advance. Treatments become more complicated, hospital stays become more common, and the chance of life-altering complications skyrockets. With all the things we have on our daily to-do lists, there is no doubt that our health should be at the top.
Timing is everything, so be sure to prioritize the following important health visits and screenings for you and your loved ones, especially if you have been putting them off due to the pandemic:
Adults should schedule an annual physical with their primary care provider to evaluate their overall health and identify or monitor any chronic health conditions, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Your doctor can even look for mental health red flags.
For children and adults, updated vaccinations are critical. The CDC states that protection from some childhood vaccines can wear off over time. Adults may also be at risk for vaccine-preventable disease due to their age, job, lifestyle, travel, or health conditions. The COVID-19 vaccine is encouraged for those 12 and older as it is an important tool to keep everyone healthy and safe as school starts back up this fall.
Talk to your doctor about important routine cancer screenings during your next preventative health visit. A physician can schedule routine breast, colon, cervical, or prostate cancer screenings based on your age and family history. Regular screenings help with early detection, which can increase the chances of finding an effective treatment plan.
Arizona’s 300-plus days of sometimes very intense sunshine should drive residents of all ages to get screened for skin cancer, which can often go undetected. Usually appearing as a new spot or morphing the appearance of an existing mole, melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer and can spread to other parts of the body.
In instances where COVID continues to be a safety concern for some people, talking with a primary care provider can help to reduce fears and uncover alternative options for certain screenings.
At the end of the day, if you have missed a screening, the most important step you can take is to reach out to your doctor and schedule a visit to get back on track.
Dr. Darren Wethers is Vice President of Clinical Operations for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona