There is a hidden impact of COVID-19 that Americans may be failing to understand. Thousands of cancers may not be getting detected early enough when treatment is the most effective. Cancer is not waiting. It is not waiting for people to see a doctor, it’s not waiting for health screenings, and it’s not waiting to maintain checkups. Dr. Lisa Richardson from the CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control discussed this health concern’s importance.
It’s a startling statistic that COVID-19 has become the third leading cause of death in the United States in 2020. Still, cancer remains the #2 leading cause of death in the U.S. Currently, the pandemic’s impact could be upwards of 10,000 deaths from breast cancer and colorectal cancer in the next decade because of COVID-19 screening delays.
What is one of the biggest concerns of health officials? People are waiting to make appointments to see a doctor. People believe that if they don’t have symptoms or a family history of some types of cancer, they aren’t at risk. Health officials empathize that cancer hasn’t stopped, and neither should you. The best tool we have in fighting cancer is early detection. That means getting routine screenings and tests to identify signs of disease early on when cancer is most treatable. People may be putting off their routine healthcare out of fear of exposure to the coronavirus. Even pre-pandemic, people were reluctant to schedule cancer screenings, and now, the pandemic has given them another compelling reason to put off their screenings even longer.
Public health officials and healthcare providers understand delivering care during a pandemic can be a big challenge and that healthcare providers need to put measures in place to limit COVID risk. People need to feel safe going to a doctor’s office for their annual screenings for breast and colorectal cancer.
So, amid the pandemic’s uncertainty, health officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Cancer Society, and National Comprehensive Cancer Network want to encourage people to call their doctor and find out what they need to know to be safe while taking care of their health. COVID varies by region, making it critical to call your provider to learn about safety protocols that have been put in place by your local provider and how and when to access care safely.