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Decline in Cancer Screenings Among Diverse Communities: A Call for Action

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Ethan Sulliva
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Decline in Cancer Screenings Among Diverse Communities: A Call for Action

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Cancer is a global health issue, with early detection being a critical factor in improving patient outcomes. However, a recent study has revealed a concerning trend: the number of cancer screenings conducted, particularly among Asian, Black, and Hispanic adults, has seen a significant decrease compared to pre-pandemic levels. This decline in preventative health screenings, coupled with disruptions in healthcare access due to the COVID-19 pandemic, brings to light critical disparities in healthcare access and equity. This article aims to delve into the reasons behind this decline, its potential implications, and the need for targeted interventions.

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COVID-19 Pandemic and Disruptions in Health Screenings

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Health Forum, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in significant disruptions in healthcare access and preventive health screenings among U.S. adults, especially among Asian, Black, and Hispanic individuals. The research highlights that wellness visits and preventive health screenings have not returned to prepandemic levels in 2021 and 2022 compared to 2019, with significant declines in colorectal, cervical, breast, and prostate cancer screenings for eligible adults. The largest relative decreases in preventive screenings were experienced by Asian, Black, and Hispanic adults.

Decline in Outpatient Wellness Visits and Key Screenings

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The study found that there were fewer outpatient wellness visits in 2022 compared with 2019. Screening rates for blood pressure, cholesterol, blood glucose, and common cancers were also lower in 2021 vs 2019. Of all racial and ethnic groups, Asian adults experienced the most pronounced declines. This decrease in preventive care has potential implications for the early detection and treatment of conditions like cancer, where early diagnosis can significantly improve patient outcomes.

Financial and Systemic Barriers to Screening

While financial barriers to screenings have decreased, other factors such as the loss of Medicaid coverage and backlogs from earlier in the pandemic are contributing to the decline in screenings. The rise in the use of telehealth and the decrease in outpatient wellness visits are also correlated with the decline in preventive care. These barriers need to be addressed to ensure equitable access to preventive screenings, particularly among diverse communities.

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Increased Cancer Diagnoses in Younger Adults and Higher Mortality Rates in Black Patients

With the decrease in screenings, more younger Americans are being diagnosed with cancer, and Black patients continue to have higher mortality rates in many cancers. This underscores the importance of early screening and detection. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has recommended women to begin getting screened for breast cancer at the age of 40, and the FDA has adopted new regulations requiring providers to notify women who get mammograms if they have dense breast tissue, which increases the risk of breast cancer.

A Call to Action for Health System, Public Health, and Health Policy Efforts

The decline in preventive health screenings among diverse communities is a call to action for health systems, public health officials, and policymakers. There is an urgent need to address the barriers to healthcare access and promote awareness about the importance of regular health check-ups and screenings. Targeted interventions should be implemented to increase preventive health screenings among all eligible U.S. adults, particularly among Asian, Black, and Hispanic adults. As we navigate the post-pandemic world, ensuring equitable access to healthcare services will be crucial in improving health outcomes across diverse communities.

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