Berks County Medical Society Medical Record Winter 2021 - 12

Collateral Damage
continued from page 13

by Michael T. Brown, MD, MBA, FACS
Medical Director, McGlinn Cancer Institute
Division Chief, General and Cancer Surgery
Tower Health-Reading Hospital
Associate Professor of Surgery
Drexel University College of Surgery
The COVID-19 pandemic caused a halt to screening for cancer in the spring of 2020.
Mammography units were closed, elective screening colonoscopies were cancelled, and
skin screening and routine pap smears were delayed. The medical community rapidly
studied the COVID-19 pandemic and introduced strategies for safe patient care. All
facilities were cleaned and patient flow was limited to appointment only. Elective
procedures were reinstituted by mid-summer. Screening mammography was restarted.
Screening mammography is down 20% from last year. There is a general fear in the
community about accessing the health care system for elective care. Most screening
for cancer takes place outside of the hospital, where the risk of COVID-19 infection
is less. All medical personnel are screening daily for any symptoms of COVID-19
and all personnel wear a mask. The risk of COVID-19 infection at an imaging center
or surgicenter is probably less than that at other public areas like supermarkets or
restaurants.
The health system has responded to a recent increase in demand for screening
mammography by patients who cancelled earlier this year by adding additional
appointments, but the system does not have the capacity to catch up quickly. It is
estimated that it will take an additional year to have everyone back on schedule for their
screening studies. Although patients are generally educated about COVID-19 infection,
there remains a generalized fear about engaging the medical system. Some patients are
delaying care for fear of contracting COVID-19 infection. We have seen a delay in care
for acute infections such as appendicitis, diverticulitis, and cholecystitis in the elderly.
We continue to encourage the public to call their physician or come to the emergency
room when appropriate. Delay of care can result in a more serious illness. Many cancers,
such as breast and colon cancer, can be silent. Patients are encouraged to maintain their
screening routines.
We have reached out to patients to schedule their screening mammograms and to
encourage them to alert our office of any changes in their breast health. We have been
successful, which I attribute to the understandable fear associated with breast cancer.
There remain many questions regarding the asymptomatic carrier of COVID-19 infection
and the general risks to the public. Our goal is to remain accessible to our patients and
take all precautions to keep our patients and ourselves healthy.

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Berks County Medical Society Medical Record Winter 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Berks County Medical Society Medical Record Winter 2021

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