Fear of Medical Tests Can Cause Dangerous Delays in Care
People in need of routine cancer screenings and important diagnostic tests often find reasons to postpone or avoid getting them done. Reasons range from fear and anxiety to inconvenience or lack of time. People often decide to wait until they feel less nervous, for things to be less hectic at work or home, or for the pandemic to be over – whatever valid-seeming reason allows them to delay crucial healthcare services.
This is the tendency of a lot of intelligent, reasonable people, who know deep down that avoiding a problem does not make it go away – in the case of medical concerns, delays can make the problem much worse. Health mysteries often grow more severe over time. Some problems, like certain cancers, can go from highly treatable to life-threatening in a matter of months. For example, lung and breast cancer are diseases that can be caught through routine screening at a very early stage, when they are most easily treated. But delays in diagnosis and treatment can allow these cancers to spread, sometimes quickly, which can change a person’s prognosis dramatically.
Reasons Why People Put Off Testing
Fear of knowing – As mentioned above, anxiety is a common reason. Sometimes not knowing feels safer than discovering that something is wrong. It allows us to tell ourselves that the possibilities or symptoms concerning us or our doctor are nothing serious. And maybe they aren’t. Wouldn’t knowing that for sure be a relief? And, if something is potentially serious, knowing what it is so that it can be treated offers far more safety than allowing problems to progress. Consider this: enduring a little anxiety now can prevent a lot of anxiety later.
Fear of testing – Some tests seem scary to people for various reasons. Mammography, x-rays and CT scans do expose people to small amounts of radiation (as does time in the outdoors in the sun). But advanced technologies and equipment reduce this exposure to the lowest possible levels, ones considered safe by the FDA, the American College of Radiology and other monitoring agencies. The limited exposure makes these tests far safer than an unchecked illness can be.
MRI, which is radiation-free, can cause anxiety in some people because the machine surrounds the area being studied – if it’s the head or chest, MRI can cause some to feel claustrophobic. But open MRI is an option for many patients, offering a more relaxed and comfortable experience. If you suffer from claustrophobia, talk to your clinician about whether open MRI is appropriate for you.
For women, fear of the discomfort of mammography can cause delays in routine screening. But consider the fact that the actual test takes only about 10 minutes, so any discomfort is brief. RAO utilizes advanced 3D mammography, which uses imaging paddles shaped to better accommodate breast tissue, so some women find it more comfortable than standard mammography. 3D mammography can find very tiny cancers when they are too small to be felt during breast self-exam, even in dense breast tissue. Delaying or avoiding routine screening can give fast-growing breast cancers a chance to spread, making it a service that women should not put off, even for a few months.
Fear of COVID-19 exposure – Adding to the usual reasons people avoid going in for a screening or diagnostic test is the very real concern about COVID-19. Understand that the essential healthcare workers performing screenings and diagnostic tests are just as concerned about safety as you are, with the advantage of having the most current information and resources designed to provide protection to everyone. RAO employs safety standards that are far more rigorous than any grocery store or restaurant can deliver. As medical professionals, we utilize the highest standards of PPE to protect both patients and staff. Our commitment to everyone’s safety is always our first priority.
Steps We Take to Protect Everyone
RAO has continued to function safely during the pandemic by adhering to proven measures designed to protect you and our staff through every step. We see patients by appointment only, require that all staff and patients wear face masks while inside our facilities, employ social distancing and limited occupancy in our regularly-sanitized waiting areas and ensure that wait times are short. All equipment is sanitized between patients, and appointments are performed as quickly as possible, while still delivering supreme accuracy. Using these protocols over the past months, RAO has been able to provide life-protecting tests safely, effectively and expediently.
Don’t Place Yourself at Risk
Whatever your reason for avoiding your routine screening or diagnostic test, remember that procrastination is too often the reason that manageable diseases become life-threatening. Most health issues can be treated effectively when caught early. Don’t let fear or anxiety take your life off-course. The sooner you get your appointment scheduled and over with, the sooner you can get back to your best possible life.