Experts say pandemic brings all-time high in delayed cancer screenings

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Delayed cancer screenings are at an all-time high locally and nationally. Experts say the coronavirus pandemic led to people putting off the test.

The University of Rochester’s Wilmot Cancer Institute says it’s ramping up its community outreach efforts to get particular community groups into the office for their appointments.

Illuminada Vilca, 38, says she suffers from polycystic breast syndrome and missed her yearly mammogram because of the pandemic.

She says having to miss a screening made her nervous, but she was also scared of getting infected with COVID-19 at the time when we didn’t have a vaccine.

"Of course there is fear of COVID, and maybe too many people all in the office at once," Vilca said. "You know you hear a lot of things so you worry about how the situation is.”

Experts like Paula Cupertino, a member of Wilmot’s community engagement team, say various pandemic-related barriers are playing a big part in what’s kept and is keeping people from taking a trip to the doctors.

"Where am I going to go, who is going to pay, do I have a co-pay, do I need transportation, who’s going to watch the kids, things like that,” Cupertino said.

Cupertino said in Rochester specifically, there are significant disparities with cancer and mortality.

"In the black community, we’re seeing high rates of prostate cancer, colorectal, breast and lung cancer," Cupertino said. "Here [the rate] is much higher than what we see in the state.”

The National Cancer Institute estimates that the screening decline will lead to 10,000 or more deaths from breast and colorectal cancer over the next 10 years.

"We’re concerned that we’re going to catch cancer at later stages because of delayed screenings,” Cupertino added.

For anyone that needs to schedule an appointment or just wants to know more about their program, Cupertino said the institute hosts community conversations about this topic on its website.