Doctor predicts more deaths from treatable cancer with delay of screenings during pandemic

The director of the National Cancer Institute estimates that there will be 10,000 more American cancer deaths over the next decade because of the pandemic.


The director of the National Cancer Institute predicts that there will be 10,000 more American cancer deaths over the next decade because of the pandemic.

Dr. Ned Sharpless published the estimate in a recent editorial, which prompted Dr. Anthony Fauci to sound the alarm during a keynote address to the American Association for Cancer Research on Monday.

"Because of the total country lockdown that we and other nations have experienced, project that over the next decade could actually result in 10,000 or more deaths,” Fauci said.

Sharpless predicted an excess of 10,000 deaths from breast and colorectal cancer over the next decade because people aren't going in to get their routine screenings, our sister station WESH reported.

There's already been a steep drop in cancer diagnoses this year.

"We've certainly been cognizant of patients' fear, which we believe is very well founded,” Orlando Health Oncologist Dr. Daniel Landau said.

Dr. Landau says he saw a dip in Central Florida patients coming in for screenings in April and May as the health industry turned to more telehealth options.

“The concerns that we have is that something that could be in a very treatable or curable situation, we wait too long to address that, we may lose that opportunity at a simple therapy, a local therapy or even curing a patient,” Landau said.

Another blow to the fight against cancer, Dr. Sharpless wrote, the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted research by shuttering labs and slowing down clinical trials.

"Clinical trials are absolutely paramount to what we do on a day to day basis. All the biggest innovation to cancer come through these trials,” Dr. Landau said.

Health professionals are urging you not to delay your health screenings. The results could be even more devastating than predicted.

"There are more cancers that require screening so the actual number may be substantially higher than what was initially quoted,” Dr. Landau said.

Meanwhile, the coronavirus pandemic has had a direct impact on the care of cancer patients, according to a Louisiana doctor.

All hospitals in Acadiana Parish, Louisiana, among other places across the U.S., have paused elective non-emergency surgeries because they are overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases, our sister station WDSU reported.

According to Dr. Henry Kaufman, cancer patients having to wait longer periods of time to access care at hospitals because of overwhelmed medical systems are being diagnosed in later stages.

"If you have an early-stage cancer, that means your operation is going to be deferred," said Kaufman. " I am still dealing with the aftermath of people presenting with later of stages of disease because we had to delay elective surgeries.

Kaufman said women were unable to get mammograms, finally got them, and presented with later stages of cancer than they would have been seen sooner.

According to Kaufman, there are many women who still haven't been able to get their mammograms.

"I worry that there is a hidden impact of this disease on our community completely unrelated to COVID," Kaufman said. "It is a real and present danger."