As 'disturbing' trend emerges, almost 80 health organizations urge cancer screening appointments

UW Health data shows a significant drop-off in cancer screening and treatment compared to pre-pandemic levels
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Posted at 11:42 AM, Mar 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-05 12:42:28-05

MADISON, Wis. (NBC 26) — Recently, nearly 80 different health organizations signed a letter encouraging the public to resume cancer screening and treatment during the ongoing pandemic.

The letter discusses "concerning" trends showing a significant drop-off in cancer screening and treatment compared to pre-pandemic levels, according to data from health groups that include The UW Carbone Cancer Center, The National Comprehensive Cancer Network, and The American Cancer Society along with 76 other organizations.

"Recent studies found the number of cervical, colorectal, breast, prostate and lung cancer screening tests dropped dramatically due to concerns about COVID-19," states the letter. "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, a disease in which it's estimated more than 600,000 people died from in the U.S. in 2020."

According to The National Cancer Institute, an estimated 10,000 deaths in the U.S. over the next 10 years will be from breast and colorectal cancer alone. These excess deaths will be because of pandemic-related delays in cancer screening and treatment.

Although more people are vaccinated every day, UW Health experts urge the public not to wait until the pandemic is over to schedule a cancer screening. Earlier screenings lead to earlier diagnosis, which is directly connected to less invasive treatments and more successful outcomes.

Providers and staff at UW Carbone said they have worked diligently to make sure cancer patients are safe to receive screenings and treatments during the pandemic. They said there has been an increase in virtual care options, space for distancing in waiting areas, use of PPE and a thorough sanitation of all care spaces.

If you are due for a mammogram, colonoscopy, or other type of cancer screening, medical staff encourage you to call your provider and schedule an appointment.