Why You Should Check on What The Right Time is For Your Doctor Appointments During Covid!

BY DENISE ALBERT  

I partnered with AstraZeneca to develop this blog post. 

How many doctors do you have? How many of those have you seen in the past year? It’s hard to believe, but I have 10 different doctors who I see at least once or twice a year.  My son said to me the other day, after looking at my reminder board, “You’re the healthiest, sick person.” I laughed before I said, “Well, except that I’m not technically sick anymore, and that’s because I’m the CEO of my health.”  

I’ve learned over the past few years to keep notes like this where I can see them. It’s easy to get confused by different portals and logins but keeping track of doctors and appointments can make all the difference. It is even more important these days, as we have all become so accustomed to staying safe at home. But staying away from checkups and routine visits, especially if you have delayed a recommended cancer screening appointment, can be risky.  

I typically schedule my mammograms and annual cancer and breast exams for every February and March. Fortunately, I recently read the news that said women should schedule their mammography either before their Covid-19 vaccination or four to six weeks after. Because I have been so on top of my health, delaying my visit slightly shouldn’t have any effect for me, but of course, everyone is different. As vaccination appointments open up, make sure to remember your recommended cancer screenings and ask your doctor what course of action is best for you!  

I’ve thought a lot this year about how cancer prepared me for Covid-19 and Quarantine. I continued to stay safe and even wore masks long before they were glamorous and shiny. I rocked robes and gloves and washed and sanitized.

I recently met Dr. Kirstamarie through my partnership with AstraZeneca’s New Normal, Same Cancer program, a public health initiative to raise awareness about recommended cancer screens during the pandemic, and shared a few questions that I believe will be helpful to you.

Denise:  

If a patient is concerned about going to  a Dr appointment, how would you ease  their anxiety about the protocols you  are taking to keep everyone safe?  

Dr Kristamarie:  

In light of all of the changes over the past year, our health and the health of  our loved ones are what matters. As we  have learned more details during this pandemic, I have been able to  implement a few protocols to help  protect patients so they can continue  to receive care. Our practice has been following safety guidelines set by the  CDC and the city’s department of  health. Additionally, we transitioned a  large majority of visits to provide virtual visits for people to still receive the care  they need, but from the safety of their  homes. For any home or work consultations, we make sure the  appropriate precautions are taken (using appropriate screening questions)  and wearing appropriate personal  protective equipment. 

Denise:  

We have heard from recent expert opinion that vaccination side effects can include enlarged lymph nodes and  mirror signs of breast cancer. Besides  trying to schedule screenings before  the first vaccination dose or 4-6 weeks after your second dose, if possible.  What else should cancer patients know about staying safe during these times?  

Dr Kristamarie:  

It’s important that patients don’t put off recommended health care and treatments. Skipping appointments or  delaying them may lead to other issues down the road. I would encourage patients to reach out to their providers to see what precautions their hospitals and offices  are taking to ensure their safety. It  may also be helpful to ask friends or family for help with certain errands (such as grocery shopping) to decrease time spent around large crowds depending on what part of the country you live in. Patients should continue to wear face coverings when out in public, maintaining distance when appropriate, and discuss whether vaccination is an appropriate option for their specific case. If there are concerns about any new or unusual  symptoms, please don’t hesitate to get tested or to discuss with your providers.  

Denise:  

Should cancer patients take extra steps to continue to stay safe?  

Dr Kristamarie:  

It’s essential to continue making healthy lifestyle choices that will  support immune health while keeping the body strong. Getting adequate sleep, incorporating a healthy diet full of vegetables and fruits, and reducing stress are some ways to help maintain  health. Staying up to date with  recommendations from providers and reputable organizations such as the CDC can also help ensure that you are staying safe.  

Dr Kristamarie:  

What special actions or precautions have you taken to ensure that you are staying safe during the Pandemic?

Denise:  

I’m continuing to monitor public health guidance as different areas start to reopen, and only doing so with caution. I have stayed masked and kept to my “pod.” I don’t eat indoors with anyone other than my immediate family who I live with and my pandemic-blended family, which includes my ex-husband, his wife, her ex-husband and their kids. That’s our “family” because the kids go back and forth so it’s as if we all live together.  

We all wash our hands constantly, get tested if we think we may have been around someone who tested positive and quarantine if any of us were  exposed. I’ve started to double mask if I go into a market or store and wear gloves as often as possible and keep up to date with the latest public health guidance on how the virus is affecting my own community.  

Dr Kristamarie:  

How have you been staying up to date with your own healthcare needs and screening tests during this time?  

Denise: 

I keep a list of all of my different  doctors as shown above. I have many  annual or biannual appointments  because of my cancer journey and my  side effects. My oncologist, my  surgeon, my radiation oncologist, my rheumatologist, my ophthalmologist, my dermatologist, my gynecologist, my endocrinologist, my gastroenterologist and my dentist. I  keep notes on when to follow up. The portals do a really good job of reminders but I have a few different portals! So, this list keeps me organized.  

Dr Kristamarie:  

Have you had to visit your healthcare provider in person during the Covid-19  Pandemic, and if yes, how was your experience? Did you feel as though your healthcare team prioritized your health and safety and if so, could you share how they did this?  

Denise:  

Yes. At the beginning, I didn’t and  luckily my mammography and my oncology appointments are typically in March, so I had just seen them when  everything got bad in 2020. I was slightly late on some of the others due to the pandemic but luckily, I see so many year-round who take many blood tests and check levels that I felt  like I was still in the realm of “on time”. I’m just about all caught up  now and it feels great! We all have  enough to worry about health-wise  these days and catching anything  early can save your life. I know, because I did.  

AstraZeneca sponsored this blog post.

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