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During The COVID-19 Pandemic, Many Delayed Cancer Screenings And Other Treatments

Talk of Iowa, hosted by Charity Nebbe

At least 6,000 Iowans have died of COVID-19. For those who made it through the pandemic, delayed cancer screenings and medical visits might take their toll.

Bad health outcomes following the COVID-19 pandemic are not limited to contracting the virus itself. The conditions of our pandemic year: less physical activity, higher consumption of alcohol or drugs or a drop in medical visits, all have a hand in our health.

On this episode of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe digs into these impacts with a range of healthcare providers.

Dr. Andrew Nish, the medical director of UnityPoint's John Stoddard Cancer Center at Unity Point in Des Moines, said he saw a tremendous drop in screenings early in the pandemic. Many medical offices were closed, and for those that were open, patients were afraid to come in for fear of contracting COVID-19. On top of that, many workers lost their jobs and therefore their health insurance. He estimated that in March and April 2020 cancer screenings dropped by 80 to 90 percent.

"It was really this perfect storm of multiple factors that decreased our rate of screening significantly," Nish said.

Amy Oehlert, the manager at UnityPoint's Powell Chemical Dependency Center in Des Moines, said delayed care for those living with a chemical dependency was deadly in some cases.

"When people don't seek help, the illness can progress. We know that addiction and alcoholism are progressive chronic relapsing and sometimes fatal diseases," Oehlert said. "That's one impact we're seeing as a result of the pandemic."


  • Dr. Richard Dobyns, family medicine physician at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City
  • Dr. Andrew Nish, medical director of Unity Point's John Stoddard Cancer Center in Des Moines
  • Amy Oehlert, manager at UnityPoint's Powell Chemical Dependency Center in Des Moines
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Charity Nebbe is the host of IPR's Talk of Iowa
Zachary Oren Smith is a reporter covering Eastern Iowa