FORT MYERS, Fla – Doctors fear preventative cancer screenings missed during the pandemic could result in some cancers being discovered at a later stage, possibly increasing the cancer death rate over previous years.
The most important message right now is to catch up on any screenings or follow-up care missed. New data from healthcare systems in California shows a significant decrease in the amount of patients going in for pap smears and HPV tests over the last year. Doctors say this pattern of delaying routine screening will probably extend to other disease sites like the colon and breast.
Fear of catching COVID has contributed to some of this missed care. For others, it's been burdens placed on them by the pandemic.
“And of course all that's done is drive the incidents rate higher. And potentially we're worried about the death rate because some of these early diseases are actually very aggressive, need to be found in the earliest states, and then treated accordingly. So we're kind of biting our fingernails waiting to see what's going to happen. We already know many more people are diagnosed than we anticipated at this time because they did miss their last screenings and they do have cancers,” explained Nancy Brinker, Co-founder of The Promise Fund of Florida.
The Promise Fund of Florida says educating the community on the importance of screenings is critical to helping more people survive.
If caught early, many forms of cancer are highly survivable. According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, cervical cancer has a 92% survival rate if caught early. The 5-year survival rate for breast cancer that is detected early and in the localized stage is about 99%.
Doctors are hopeful that with distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine underway, we'll start to see people catch up on any missed screenings.