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Dr. Mark Evers: Kentuckians should make regular checkups, cancer screenings a priority


With COVID-19 dominating the headlines, it’s easy to forget – understandably – about many of the other actions we should be taking to keep ourselves healthy. You’ve heard a lot of guidelines about the importance of wearing masks, social distancing, washing your hands regularly, and much more – good advice that we should all continue to follow as we try to prevent the further spread of the novel coronavirus.

However, there are still many other serious health issues that we need to keep at the forefront of our minds. Kentucky continues to rank first in the nation for deaths from cancer; in fact, this year alone, an estimated 10,500 Kentuckians will die from some type of cancer. Tragically, many of these cancers could have been successfully treated if they were found earlier.

One of the best ways to reduce the burden of cancer in our state is through prevention – namely, cancer screenings. There are a number of screenings available for some of the most common cancers plaguing our state: lung, colorectal, cervical, breast, prostate and more.

These screenings are incredibly important, and they save lives by helping us detect cancers in their earliest – and most treatable – stages. Many people may have had their regular screenings postponed the past two months due to COVID-19. There are likely many Kentuckians who have already begun experiencing some symptoms of cancer, but have been too afraid to seek help from their physician due to fears of contracting COVID-19 by visiting a medical facility.

As we slowly begin reopening our society, I encourage Kentuckians to be vigilant about their health. Do not be afraid to contact your physician if you’re experiencing any unusual changes in your body. If you cancelled your regular checkup, make sure to reschedule that appointment. And as hospital systems begin performing services that were previously put on hold, I strongly urge everyone to make sure that they continue to get their appropriate cancer screenings and oncologist visits on schedule.

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At the University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center, we’ve remained busy caring for our patients who needed treatment that couldn’t wait: chemotherapy infusions, surgeries, radiation therapies, and more. While numerous other cancer centers in the country have needed to postpone many of their clinical trials, our clinical research is still ongoing – these trials often represent the best chance of a successful treatment for our patients.

As our healthcare system has begun reintroducing general doctor visits and elective procedures, we have ramped up capacity for many cancer screenings: mammograms for breast cancer, CT screenings for lung cancer and colonoscopies for colorectal cancer. Getting these screenings on a regular basis can literally mean the difference between life and death.

While we want patients to seek out necessary medical care, we understand that many patients may be apprehensive about coming into a health care facility. At Markey, we continue to take COVID-19 seriously and have implemented a number of measure to help keep our patients safe:

•Proactive conversations with patients, such as phone screens prior to clinic visits and coordinating care in appropriate areas for those with COVID-19 concerns.

•Ensuring a safe environment with minimized risk, including visitor restrictions, employee screenings and promotion of social distancing.

•Collaborating with infectious disease leadership, including daily communications on the latest news and safety recommendations for the COVID-19 pandemic.

•When appropriate for the individual patient, our clinics and services are open to telehealth visits.

COVID-19 will continue to be an issue for all us for the months, and possibly years, to come. The deaths we’ve seen due to COVID-19 in Kentucky are a tragedy. But we don’t want to add to that heavy toll the deaths that were indirectly influenced by COVID-19, whether it was due to a disease that proliferated because of a delayed screening or avoidance of a doctor’s office.

Dr. Mark Evers is the director of the UK Markey Cancer Center.


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