The National Comprehensive Cancer Network and the American Cancer Society are teaming up with cancer organizations across the country to endorse the resumption of cancer screening and treatment during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The coalition of 76 organizations released an open letter reminding the public that cancer still poses a major threat to people’s health, but acting as soon as is safely possible can lead to much better outcomes in the future.
The letter strongly recommends that hospitals, medical systems and patients:
Ensure people in our communities are not delaying care for important medical issues.
Encourage people in our communities to resume recommended cancer screening.
Facilitate and encourage people with cancer to resume evidence-based treatment.
Contact your doctor right away if any concerning medical symptoms arise.
Resume all preventive and prescribed care, including regular cancer screening, as recommended by your doctor.
The letter examines distressing trends showing a significant drop-off in recommended cancer screening and treatment compared to prior years. This concerning side-effect of the pandemic could lead to an increase of preventable cancer deaths over the next ten years and beyond.
Experts agree that people should not delay any necessary prevention or care.
“When the pandemic first hit the United States, a short delay in care was an appropriate choice for many cancer types. However, the balance of risk has shifted significantly,” Robert W. Carlson, chief executive officer of NCCN, said in a statement. “Cancer centers are taking multiple measures to protect patients and staff from COVID-19 and transmission within cancer centers is quite unusual. Meanwhile, far too many cancers are being left to grow unchecked. Postponing cancer care will add tragedy on top of tragedy.”
“Over the past decade we have seen overall cancer mortality rates drop dramatically. This decline is in large part due to screening’s ability to catch cancers before they spread—when the chances of good outcomes are most likely,” William G. Cance, chief medical and scientific officer of ACS, said in a statement. “We have come too far in our fight against cancer to allow long breaks in vital screening to slow down our progress in saving lives.”
Hospitals and medical systems have begun vaccinating health care providers among other measures to ensure a safe environment for people receiving cancer screening and treatment. The confirmed use of evidence-based precautions against COVID-19 should provide reassurance against fears of infection during necessary medical care.
Experts are now asking everyone, in coordination with their health care provider, to resume preventive and prescribed care and contact their doctor right away about any new symptoms or concerns.