By Andrew Jensen, SMGOR Dermatology
Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day has always been a favorite film of mine. What an entertaining idea to relive the same day over and over and seeing all the ways it could go wrong (or right, once he learned to sing and play the piano). Well, Bill, it’s not that exciting IRL (in real life).
For many of us, the last few months were the closest anyone had gotten to putting themselves in Bill’s shoes. But when Netflix loses its lure and the couch cushions no longer have their youthful spring, what are we to do?
As some states and counties are slowly phasing into more open and active communities, there is no shortage of questions and speculation about what lies ahead. You may be wondering, “Do I restart my gym membership now and start burning off my COVID-19 (pounds, not virus)?” Or, “Do I risk visiting Phil’s Trailhead with parked cars with plates from every state but our own?” No one has a perfect answer, but as health experts, we can share what we know! Let me give you some food for thought (thinking is a net loss of calories), and you decide for yourself how you can put your health priorities higher up the list.
One of the unfortunate consequences that occurred during the COVID-19 lockdown, was many chronically ill patients were not able to receive the appropriate level of care they needed when doctors’ offices were mostly closed. Similarly, Reuters reports that “diagnostic panels and cancer screenings typically performed during annual physician visits fell by as much as 68 percent nationally, and by even more in coronavirus hotspots.” So, what does this mean? It means there are a number of individuals that went undiagnosed over past months who are not receiving needed treatments for cancer or other conditions. Unsettling? Yes. Hopeless? No!
As reported by ABC News, the University of Pennsylvania Health System diagnosed 80 percent less skin cancers in March from early February, including both invasive melanomas, the deadliest form of skin cancer, and other common types of skin cancer. Why does this matter? For the most common types of skin cancer, a delay in diagnosis and treatment would likely not have dire consequences. But that is not true for all skin cancers, especially melanoma. We know that once melanoma spreads to other parts of the body, the survival rate drops dramatically. That is why early detection and melanoma screening is so important, especially for those with a personal or family history of skin cancer.
But is it safe to return to your doctor’s office? As federal and local governments have laid out plans for re-opening, a major effort has been made to ensure medical offices are well equipped not only with important personal protective equipment (PPE) for both staff and patients, but also with protective policies like distancing in waiting rooms, strict cleaning and sanitizing between patients and options for virtual visits with your doctors.
Now, if only Punxsutawney Phil could peer out and fail to see his COVID-19 shadow, we could all rest a little easier knowing that both spring and post-pandemic normalcy would come a little sooner. But no matter your level of caution, you can get your health back on track. June is Men’s Health Month! It couldn’t have come at a better time, and it should be used as motivation for all men (and everyone) to catch up on important health screenings they may have missed.
Safely visit your doctor’s office whether masked and in-person, or virtually, to make sure you’re ready to hit Phil’s Trail and head out (safely) on all your 2020 adventures (wearing SPF 30 and a hat, of course).
Andrew Jensen, DO, is part of Summit Medical Group Oregon’s Dermatology team. Dr. Jensen treats a variety of skin conditions in patients of all ages. His interests include skin cancer detection and treatment, eczema, psoriasis and other inflammatory skin diseases. He also has expert training in cosmetic dermatology and enjoys utilizing cosmetic products and procedures to help those who desire to look as healthy as they feel.