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Some things can’t wait until next year

Some things can wait, but not cancer screening and treatment.

The past seven months have knocked nearly every routine in our world off balance or out of synch. The COVID-19 pandemic has placed many parts of our lives on hold. Others hit pause, then resumed, but not at normal pace.

But there is one thing we simply can’t put off until after this storm passes.

Statistics show, the Grand Traverse region has long been a hotspot for incidence of cancer, and some of those counties have ranked at the wrong end of mortality rate charts for some forms of the disease.

The high rate of several cancers, including breast cancer, throughout our communities is both concerning and worthy of deep examination (we’re thankful Michigan State University Epidemiologist Kelly Hirko has dedicated herself to finding answers for our communities).

National statistics show one in eight women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime, but 93 percent will survive the disease when it’s detected early.

Thanks to lots of hard work by some extraordinary people, areas like Antrim County have made substantial strides to reduce the number of people who die each year from some types of cancer. Those efforts to reduce mortality rates often bank on early detection, in Antrim the High Tea for Breast Cancer Prevention has helped cover screening costs for dozens of women who couldn’t otherwise afford the medical care.

Maybe that’s why we’re so concerned about what we’re hearing from local cancer experts. They have observed a substantial drop in the number of people seeking cancer screenings since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Those same experts, and many others, worry the resulting delay in detection will have grave repercussions in the coming years. Some predict a yearlong drop in early detection will mean a surge in late-stage cancers on the horizon.

Weeks matter. Months may cost lives.

So today, seven months into a pandemic that likely won’t subside for at least another half year, we bring forward a plea. Don’t ignore an unusual pain. Don’t let a lump linger.

Early detection is key to surviving almost every form of cancer.

Throughout the pandemic, we all will be asked to delay some part of our life or another — a work trip, a school event or a dinner out with friends. All those things can be adjusted or rescheduled to compensate for our current reality.

There is no doubt we all will need to make up for lost time in the coming year, unfortunately there is no way to turn back the clock on cancer.

— Traverse City Record-Eagle

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