“My biggest concern is really in the area of prevention and screening. What we know from looking even at the pediatric population, parents did not bring their children in for their routine screens and their routine vaccines, and we’re seeing similar manifestations play out in terms of cancer screening and heart disease screening,” Hancock told hosts Michelle Witte and Bob Schlehuber.
“Folks are not showing up and scheduling their appointments where they undergo their colonoscopies, their mammographies, etc.”
According to a report by Time, research has shown that the pandemic has resulted in a 80% decrease in routine cancer screening appointments.
“Not only that, folks are waiting a much longer time when they are manifesting symptoms, especially when it relates to heart disease. So, what we’re likely seeing, based on the data that is now coming out, are decreased numbers of folks getting their routine preventative screens as well as people waiting much longer with increased severity of diseases like cancer and heart disease,” she added.
With many people forgoing screenings due to the pandemic, health insurance companies are likely to be affected.
“It impacts us as health care professionals, because for health insurance companies to keep us on their panel, we are required to make sure a certain percentage of our patients are receiving these necessary screenings. And when that does not happen, that impacts really the bottom line of primary care providers who stand in the gap for patients to make sure that preventative medicine is being practiced, so that the majority of our patients aren't progressing to full-blown disease when we can catch it much earlier,” Dr. Hancock explained.
She also warned that despite the narrative that COVID-19 doesn’t greatly impact young and healthy people, many young people are experiencing long-lasting effects from the novel coronavirus.
“What we know here in the US is that close to 65% of those with COVID-19 have ‘recovered,’ but we’re still learning what does that mean exactly. And there’s misinformed belief that simply because you’ve had a mild case of COVID, you’re out of the woods, and that clearly is not the case, especially when you’re looking at very young, healthy populations that are demonstrating long-term implications as it relates to heart health, lung health, etc.,” Hancock explained.
“In terms of how well we manage patients with chronic diseases, I can tell you we do not manage them well, especially when they are these nondescript, hard-to-define lingering effects from COVID-19,” she added.
“We’re still learning what those effects are. We are only eight months into this pandemic, and data is just now coming out about the impact on the heart, impact on the lungs.”
In addition, the pandemic has shed light on institutionalized racism in the US as mostly Black communities living near chemical plants suffer more deaths from the virus.
“Of all the challenges that COVID has presented for us, one of the opportunities is the revelation of the institutionalized racism that has existed in this country since its inception. When we look at mapping of chemical plants, of refineries, factories, and then look at increased risk of cancer, increased risk of any chronic disease and/or infectious disease that preferentially attacks the lung, you’re going to see significant overlap, and when you think about people who are placed near chemical plants, toxic areas, their lungs are already impacted and inflamed,” Hancock explained.