Many people missed screenings such as mammograms in 2020, according to...

Many people missed screenings such as mammograms in 2020, according to a study. Credit: Europa Press via Getty Images/Europa Press News

Take care of your health.

Every family across Long Island knows how important this is. The reminders keep dropping in about how we might be forgetting to take preventive measures. That includes a recent study from Stony Brook University researchers showing a widespread reduction in screenings for breast, colorectal, and cervical cancer during the early phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Such screenings are important tools “to fight cancer incidence and morbidity and mortality caused by these diseases worldwide,” said Paolo Boffetta, associate director for population sciences at the Stony Brook Cancer Center and lead author of the review and meta-analysis that compiled data found in medical publishing sources from 19 countries.

But plenty of people skipped those screenings. The study found screening decreases of about one-third to one-half for breast, colorectal, and cervical cancer from January to October 2020.

There were reasons for the reluctance to show up at a doctor’s office, including fear of infection, stay-at-home orders, and temporarily limited access to actual in-person medical exams. We have yet to learn the full consequences. Further study is necessary, but among the conclusions from this look at decreased 2020 screenings: “This is expected to be associated with an increase of avoidable advanced cancers and cancer-related deaths.”

Any household touched by cancer is brutally familiar with the trials and challenges that come with a diagnosis, particularly a late one. If you’ve been keeping up with your recommended screenings, what a relief. If you’re a little overdue, why not make an appointment today?

That’s one of several ways we can all keep an eye on our health in the coming months. The goal of endemic COVID is much closer than it has been since the pandemic’s start, and there are simple steps we can take to keep the situation from returning to emergency levels. When infection numbers are high, we can wear masks in crowded indoor locations. More people should get boosters to increase their levels of protection: Barely more than half of eligible New Yorkers have received their first supplemental shot, according to state data.

Testing should be available to help schools and other crucial public spaces operate as usual, even as the cold weather months approach with their promise of other waves. New Yorkers should have access to all the treatment and therapeutics they need to blunt the impact of what has been a tragically deadly disease.

And the research into — and treatment for — long COVID must continue, given the thousands who still find their lives disrupted long after infection.

None of this is frivolous, because sickness never is. Let’s keep Long Island healthy to enjoy many more summers to come.

MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are experienced journalists who offer reasoned opinions, based on facts, to encourage informed debate about the issues facing our community.