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    There’s been a shift in healthcare due to the COVID-19 pandemic: people delayed routine and emergent medical care. Routine screenings and testing, such as colonoscopies and mammograms are recommended for a reason: to aid in early detection and monitoring of irregularities. The CDC estimates that during the pandemic, “41% of U.S. adults delayed or avoided medical care…because of concerns about COVID-19, including 12% who reported having avoided urgent or emergency care” (CDC, 2020). Ian Wallace, a Genetic Counselor at Pullman Regional Hospital’s Summit Therapy and Health Services, encourages individuals to get back on track with their annual screenings and medical care. 


    Genetic Counselors, like Ian Wallace, provide diagnostic testing, information, and support to families who may be at risk for a variety of inherited conditions and those who have a personal or family history of genetic disorders; these areas include oncology, infertility, obstetrics and many more. Wallace emphasizes that medical care and screenings should not be delayed. It can be inconvenient to go for yearly screenings, but it’s an important part of monitoring your health.


    A recent study confirmed that delays in cancer treatment cause increased mortality across all common forms of cancer. There’s a 7% increased risk of death for every four-week delay in cancer surgery, so patients waiting just eight weeks have doubled the risk of death (Hanna et al, 2020). These statistics can seem scary, but don’t panic! Pullman Regional Hospital and Clinic Network practices continue to provide screenings, testing, and labs, so there’s no reason to wait. If you delayed care, screenings, or tests, now’s the time to schedule and get back on track.


    Wallace says that “guidelines vary, but it’s generally recommended for women to have mammograms starting annually at age 40 and everyone to have colonoscopies every 10 years starting at age 45. Positive or negative genetic test results can modify this schedule.” These guidelines are in place for a reason: to assist with early detection and monitoring. Foregoing these types of screenings because of the COVID-19 pandemic can lead to increased concerns down the road. Untreated or unmonitored health issues don’t just disappear - you’ll likely be faced with tougher challenges, treatments, and longer lasting effects later on if you neglect to receive routine care, screening, and monitoring now. 


    It’s important to know risk factors, so you can take steps to protect yourself - such as knowing what testing and screenings you should be receiving, as well as any symptoms or warning signs to be on the lookout for. Wallace notes that “common red flags for an inherited risk of cancer include first- or second-degree relatives who were diagnosed before age 60 or at least two relatives on the same side of your family who had cancer.” If you’re concerned, talk with your doctor; make sure to provide your known family medical history so your doctor has a comprehensive view of your health. 


    If your personal or family history suggests that you may carry a genetic predisposition for cancer, your doctor can refer you to Genetic Counseling. A Genetic Counselor can help you decide if genetic testing is right for you and your family and insurance generally covers the visit. To make an appointment, give Summit Therapy & Health Services a call at (509) 332-5106. 


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