Delayed cancer screening and testing during the novel coronavirus pandemic could bring dire consequences and roll back significant gains made in recent years in reducing cancer deaths.  

“As we continue our vigilance in the fight against the coronavirus, we must also remain mindful of other essential health services, such as cancer screenings and cancer treatments,” said Barry Sleckman, M.D., Ph.D., director of the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Alabama at UAB. “Failure to do so could bring significant consequences for those with cancer and compound health disparities and the ill effects of the pandemic.”

Cancer deaths in the United States have decreased over the last two decades primarily due to the effectiveness of screening procedures. These procedures detect cancer at its earliest stages, allowing for cancer treatments that are curative or more effective in cancer control when started early in the disease progression. 

The recent coronavirus pandemic has prevented patients from undergoing much needed screenings and hindered access to these procedures that could result in late-stage presentations and cancer death.

“We urge patients to continue to undergo age-appropriate cancer screenings and reach out to their health care providers regarding options,” said Monica Baskin, Ph.D., professor in UAB’s Division of Preventive Medicine and associate director for the O'Neal Cancer Center’s Office for Outreach & Engagement. “The risk of missing cancer treatments or medical appointments must rightfully be weighed against the need to protect against potential COVID-19 exposure. These are discussions that patients should have directly with their health care provider to receive individual guidance.”

Read more about the risk of forgoing cancer care and what the O'Neal Cancer Center is doing to ensure the safety of patients during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.