Hospitals and other medical services providers have noticed an alarming trend over the past several months: Patients waiting much longer than they should to receive medical treatment.
“You may think you can ‘deal with the pain,’ but increased levels or extended periods of pain may impact your mental health. Similarly, delaying a knee replacement may force you to put more weight on your good leg, leading to quicker deterioration of your ‘good’ ligaments and joint.”
Similarly, a urinary tract infection left untreated could lead to a kidney infection. Lacerations, wounds and burns not properly treated could lead to sepsis – the body’s response to an infection where it damages its own tissues. Or, in the case of a stroke, every second delayed could lead to increased brain damage.
“There’s a concern that going to the ER or scheduling annual medical exams is putting patients at risk of contracting COVID-19 when that’s simply not the case,” said Cassie Kotlarczyk, BSN, RN, EMT-P/IC, Director of Emergency Services for Memorial Healthcare. “At Memorial Healthcare we are going above and beyond recommended guidelines to ensure the safety of our patients and protect them against COVID-19.”
With that in mind, here are five medical services that should not be delayed:
Mammograms and Colonoscopies. These annual exams are crucial for detecting cancer at early stages in men and women – leading to significantly higher survival rates.
According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, “when breast cancer is detected early, and is in the localized stage, the five-year relative survival rate is 99%.”
It’s important to understand that there has been some concern that side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine could be mistaken for breast cancer on a mammogram if scheduled closely to your vaccination. However, don’t cancel your mammogram. Instead, contact your primary care provider to ask for guidance.
Chronic Condition Management. Many chronic medical conditions are preventable and/or manageable through lifestyle changes. However, those adjustments should be implemented with guidance from a medical professional and monitored for any changes to your condition that may impact or alter the treatment plan.
Lab and Imaging Studies. CAT scans, MRIs, X-Rays and biopsies are all examples of lab work or imaging that should not be delayed. Immediately consult a health care professional when there is head trauma, pain that hasn’t decreased or subsided in over a week, or you are experiencing symptoms consistent with a stroke or heart attack.
Mental Health. Many of us are facing challenges that can be stressful, overwhelming, and cause strong emotions in adults and children. If you are struggling to cope, call your healthcare provider if stress gets in the way of your daily activities for several days in a row. In extreme times of stress, you may need to seek out care at an emergency department or contact a confidential crisis resources by clicking here.
Well-Visits and Immunizations. Annual physicals and well-visits are a chance to have frank one-on-one conversations with your primary care provider about the status of your health, goals, and any noticeable changes to your body. It also created an opportunity to get any necessary tests that may uncover issues that can help you be the best version of yourself.
Whenever you’re in doubt about whether you need medical attention, consult with your primary care provider first. Urgent care clinics are also an option, and many practices now offer telehealth so patients can meet with their physician over a computer or smartphone to discuss medical issues without having to go into the office.
The pandemic has created a lot of uncertainty, but your health, wellness, and overall well-being must be a priority. Waiting to receive much-needed medical attention can only make matters worse.