Delaying care can be deadly
When COVID-19 virus took the world by storm in 2020, individuals already battling health problems, including 15 million Americans currently living with cancer, had many difficult decisions to make.
Health officials continue to urge people to take precautions when going out in public and to limit close contact with others outside of their family units.
Medical care systems across the country have been overwhelmed by coronavirus patients.
Many people undergoing cancer treatments and maintenance regimens for other conditions canceled or postponed their appointments.
Doctors postponed surgeries and other procedures for thousands of patients with cancer.
Many also canceled screening appointments, resulting in serious disruptions in care.
The National Cancer Institute reports that breast cancer screenings dropped by 89.2% and colorectal cancer screenings fell by 84.5%.
The institute estimates there will be 10,000 more deaths attributed to these two cancers over the next 10 years as a direct result of the pandemic.
Delays in treatment for many different types of cancer can lead to worse outcomes for patients.
However, each time a patient goes to a medical center to receive care, he or she may perceive an increased risk of contracting COVID-19. That’s especially so for those who have not yet been vaccinated.
Many health experts, including Harvard Medical School, advise against delaying cancer treatments during the pandemic, noting that the risk for adverse outcomes due to cancer overwhelm the risk of coronavirus contraction.
In fact, even a short delay in treatment may lead to deadly outcomes, according to a review of 34 studies published by the British Medical Journal. Even a four-week delay was associated with a 6% to 8% greater likelihood of dying during the study period.
While hospitals and health clinics cannot remove every danger of infectious disease contraction, safety is the top priority for cancer patients.
Many organizations are working closely with infection prevention and infectious diseases teams to provide cancer care in safe environments.
Cancer patients should discuss treatment plans with their care teams. The goal should be to continue treatment with minimal disruption.
Last modified May 20, 2021