By: Will Sansom
The Mays Cancer Center, home to UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson, is teaming up with the National Comprehensive Cancer Network® (NCCN®), the American Cancer Society (ACS) and other leading cancer organizations across the country to endorse the resumption of cancer screening and treatment during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The coalition of 76 organizations has released an open letter reminding the public that cancer still poses a major threat to people’s health, and acting as soon as is safely possible can lead to much better outcomes in the future. The letter examines distressing trends showing a significant drop-off in recommended cancer screening and treatment compared to prior years. This concerning side-effect of the pandemic could lead to a staggering number of preventable cancer deaths over the next 10 years and beyond. Oncology experts agree that people should not delay any necessary prevention or care.
“Cancer is not waiting for the COVID-19 pandemic to end,” said Ruben Mesa, MD, FACP, executive director of the Mays Cancer Center. “Today it is threatening our lives and the lives of those we love. Catching cancer in its earliest stages can make it easier to treat, which is why it’s so important to get your cancer screenings. The Mays Cancer Center joins the NCCN and the ACS in calling for all South Texans to get their mammograms, colonoscopies, prostate, cervical and lung cancer screenings and to not ignore the warning signs of cancer.”
“When the pandemic first hit the United States, a short delay in care was an appropriate choice for many cancer types,” said Robert W. Carlson, MD, chief executive officer of the NCCN. “However, the balance of risk has shifted significantly. We now have two impressive vaccines that are being distributed around the world. We also know much more about how to treat and prevent COVID-19. Cancer centers are taking multiple measures to protect patients and staff from COVID-19, and transmission within cancer centers is quite unusual. Meanwhile, far too many cancers are being left to grow unchecked. Postponing cancer care will add tragedy on top of tragedy.”
“It is of the utmost importance that critical cancer screenings resume as soon as safely possible,” said William G. Cance, MD, chief medical and scientific officer of the American Cancer Society. “Over the past decade we have seen overall cancer mortality rates drop dramatically. This decline is in large part due to screening’s ability to catch cancers before they spread – when the chances of good outcomes are most likely. We have come too far in our fight against cancer to allow long breaks in vital screening to slow down our progress in saving lives.”
Hospitals and medical systems across the country have already begun vaccinating health care providers, among other measures, to ensure a safe environment for people receiving cancer screening and treatment. The confirmed use of evidence-based precautions against COVID-19 should provide reassurance against fears of infection during necessary medical care.
The letter points out that researchers around the world have made tremendous strides in controlling cancer in recent years. Leading oncology experts are now asking everyone, in coordination with their health care provider, to resume preventive and prescribed care and contact their doctor right away about any new symptoms or concerns.
Visit NCCN.org/resume-screening to read the entire letter. For general guidance and information about cancer, visit NCCN.org or Cancer.org.