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The COVID-19 pandemic led to health delays, but waiting rooms are getting busy again

Published: Monday, October 3, 2022 - 8:35am
Updated: Monday, October 3, 2022 - 8:36am

During the pandemic, many people stopped going to the doctor. While some took advantage of telemedicine, there are certain exams that have to be done in person. But waiting rooms are once again busy.

There are two exams that most women regularly endure: mammograms and, to a lesser extent, pap smears. Both are uncomfortable and both have to be done in person. 

Dr. Megan Wasson is the chair of medical and surgical gynecology at the Mayo Clinic. She says lots of patients delayed getting their pap smears, which can detect cervical cancer. 

"But thankfully, with the HPV virus and cervical dysplasia, cervical carcinoma being a very slow progressive thing, this really hasn't negatively impacted the rates of cervical cancer."

Cervical cancer is most commonly associated with the HPV virus, says Wasson, which the immune system tends to clear out on its own. In fact, the guidelines on pap smears recently changed.

"Once a patient is over the age of 30, then we space it out even further and we're doing pap smears every five years," Wasson said.

Mammograms are a different story. Breast cancer is very common. 

"One in 8 women will be affected by it," said Dr. Kristina Butler, a gynecologic oncologist with the Mayo Clinic. 

"We've definitely seen data that cancers newly diagnosed fell dramatically as a result of COVID. And we suspect highly, rather that these cancers have gone undetected," said Butler.

Coronavirus Science Health + Medicine