COVID-19 & Cancer: Dip In Screenings Could Have Deadly Results

Fewer people are getting routine cancer screenings during the COVID-19 pandemic, and that has doctors worried the trend could cost thousands of lives. NBC's Sarah Dallof reports.

(NBC News) — Cancer diagnoses are down during the COVID-19 pandemic, and that has health experts very concerned.

They believe there are just as many cases out there, but they’re not being caught early, and that could result in thousands of excess deaths.

“We are looking at the possibility for the first time in decades we don’t see cancer mortality decline on a year to year basis,” says Dr. Ned Sharpless, director of the National Cancer Institute.

Earlier this summer Dr. Sharpless wrote in medical journal magazine “Science” there could be 10,000 additional deaths from breast and colorectal cancer alone over the next decade.

He now believes that estimate is conservative.

“That colonoscopies and mammography have declined to an even greater degree than we predicted at the time,” he notes.

A recent study from the Prevent Cancer Foundation found more than a third of Americans have missed cancer screenings due to COVID-19 fears. Others have delayed the evaluation of symptoms for similar reasons.

“In general we think that cancer is a bigger threat than exposure to coronavirus,” Dr. Sharpless says. “There are approaches we can use to get patients in to get the care they need without being placed in harms way.”

The National Cancer Institute is encouraging patients to communicate with their doctors as it helps treatment centers get back up to speed and pushing for continued clinical trials and research.

Read more here.