Last spring’s wave of COVID-19 delays to cancer care, and a prolonged pandemic, have resulted in disturbing trends for patients that, while not unexpected, are now being quantified. 

Late last week, dozens of major cancer centers and organizations across the US, including the National Comprehensive Cancer Network and American Cancer Society, issued an urgent call to action: cancer screening and treatment during COVID-19 must resume at full speed and at full scale.

 

In a Letter endorsed by dozens of leading organizations, they state:

“The number of people newly diagnosed with cancer has decreased significantly in the United States (U.S.) as well as in other countries across the globe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Recent studies found the number of cervical, colorectal, breast, prostate and lung cancer screening tests dropped dramatically due to concerns about COVID-19. Studies have also noted a significant drop in cancer diagnoses and delays in active treatment. 

This is concerning because identifying and treating cancer early significantly improves outcomes from cancer. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) conservatively predicted almost 10,000 excess deaths in the U.S. from breast and colorectal cancer alone over the next 10 years because of pandemic-related delays in cancer screening and treatment. However, this estimate does not account for other cancer types and assumed only a 6-month disruption in care, suggesting the actual excess deaths could be much higher.”

 

The Letter is accompanied by a Fact Sheet with impact statistics and policy recommendations.

We agree: it is imperative that cancer patients have equitable access to safe options for cancer testing during and beyond the pandemic. 

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