There’s nothing like a pandemic to make you realize the importance of your health. But during the first phase of quarantine and shortly after, routine screenings fell drastically among Americans. In fact, the National Institute for Health (NIH) estimates that 9.4 million screening appointments that were meant to take place in 2020, didn’t happen. And even once it was safe to return to medical facilities for these potentially life-saving tests (1, 2), many people never got back into their pre-pandemic schedule.
However, we’re now in a new phase of the world. As COVID-19 continues to play a part in our lives, people are realizing exactly how much the stress of health concerns can affect your quality of life. That’s why today, interest in wellness is higher than it’s been in years. In fact, studies estimate that the wellness economy was around $5 trillion in 2021, and is expected to grow to nearly $7 trillion by 2025—far beyond its 2019 pre-pandemic peak.
After all this time of anxiety around health, people are making the choice to understand their health fully by proactively setting appointments and researching screening options they may have missed throughout the pandemic. If you’re looking to get back on track with your preventive care, read on.
The impact of COVID-19 on cancer screenings
When preventive care like cancer screenings are missed, people may be diagnosed with a more advanced stage of illness, which can be much harder to treat. That’s why the American College of Surgeons and the American Cancer Society have collaborated to create the Return-to-Screening study, an initiative designed to make cancer screenings more accessible than ever before. Along with the growth of consumer interest in wellness, this sets the stage for people to get back into their screening routines—and for people who have never begun screenings to start.
Surviving vs. thriving
There’s nothing worse than worrying about what you don’t know. During the pandemic, we’ve learned how dramatically anxiety can impact our health—particularly when that anxiety is about health.
Just four cancer types—breast, cervical, colorectal, and prostate cancers—are responsible for 40% of all new cancer diagnoses and about 20% of cancer deaths, as of 2013. Screening is the best tool we have for detecting these cancers early and reducing the toll they take. When you prioritize your preventive health by scheduling a screening, you can know where you stand and have one less thing to worry about. This is your chance to go beyond surviving the day-to-day and begin thriving, setting yourself up for your best possible health in the future.
Where should I start?
Your primary care physician is the best resource to learn what screenings are recommended for you based on age, gender, and your unique health history. At your annual wellness exam, talk to them about what you should schedule for the year. Here are general guidelines based on age from the American Cancer Society:
In your 20s: Cervical cancer screenings should begin by age 25 and recur every 3 years. Perform regular breast self-exams to detect any changes that could indicate breast cancer. Colorectal cancer screenings are not indicated for this age group, unless you are at an increased risk.
In your 30s: Continue cervical cancer screenings and breast self-exams; colon cancer screenings and screening mammograms are not necessary at this age unless you are at an increased risk.
In your 40s: People with an average risk should begin colon cancer screenings at age 45. Annual screening mammograms are recommended for all women 45 and up, but can begin earlier if needed. Prostate cancer screenings can begin at age 45, but discuss the positives and negatives of this with your doctor. Cervical cancer screenings should continue as recommended by your physician.
50-64 years old: Cervical, breast, colon, and prostate cancer screenings should continue as recommended by your physician. At age 50, your doctor may recommend lung cancer screenings for those with a history of smoking. At age 55, you may be able to reduce screening mammograms to once every two years.
People aged 65+: Colon cancer screenings should continue until age 75, and can continue later if recommended by your physician. Cervical cancer screenings can be discontinued if you’ve had negative results for the previous 10 years. Mammograms can continue every two years. Lung cancer and prostate cancer screenings can occur at the discretion of your physician.
It’s never too late to start prioritizing your health. If you’re ready to get back on track with cancer screenings, talk to your Baylor St. Luke’s primary care physician. Our team is here to help with all your health concerns, and we’re ready to advise the best ways for you to stay well throughout your life.
Global Wellness Institute | The Global Wellness Economy: Looking Beyond COVID
NIH | Cancer
CDC | Patterns and Trends
ACS | Cancer Screening Guidelines by Age