Valley doctor fearful COVID-19 pandemic could cause spike in cancer cases
PHOENIX — In the past year, COVID-19 has taken over cancer as the leading cause of death in the U.S., but it also could be the catalyst for a spike in cancer deaths.
Many people have delayed going to scheduled cancer screenings during COVID-19 out of fear of contracting the virus.
Sandra Olvera, a family nurse practitioner at Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center in Phoenix, said it was a trend in her clinic.
“In 2020, we saw a dramatic decrease in patients coming back for their routine surveillance, at least with our program the majority of our patients are breast cancer survivors,” Olvera said.
A study done by ScienceDirect found that in 2020, breast cancer screenings among Hispanic women went down by 84%. For American Indian/Alaska Native women, the rate was down 98% compared to the past five years.
Olvera says after the COVID-19 vaccine become available, more patients have started to reschedule their routine screenings.
Even so, professionals worry the delay in cancer screenings will lead to more advanced cancer diagnoses.
“We are seeing patients coming in and because of delay of care, delay of screening they’re being seen for more advanced cases of cancer,” Olvera said.
The American Cancer Society estimated for 2021 in Arizona, there would be 12,510 deaths out of 39,640 new cancer diagnoses.
Olvera urges everyone to get their cancer screenings back on track because it can save lives.
“It can reduce your chance of early death, can help with advanced treatments and make sure patients have a better prognosis,” Olvera said.
Depending on age, Olvera recommends for women to get their annual pap smear and mammogram and for men to make sure they’re getting a prostate check.
She added both men and women should be screened for colon and skin cancers.