Saturday, January 15, 2022

Experts say pandemic lockdowns caused increase in advanced cancers by curtailing screenings

Covid-19 apparently is responsible for many cancers dangerously advancing, physicians have warned, because the pandemic caused a large drop in screenings.

The main reason, according to a recent story in The New York Times by Reed Abelson, is that mammograms and other tests to detect potential cancers were canceled or severely delayed by lockdowns, an action that may have led to undiagnosed malignancies.

"Waves of surging Covid cases," the article says, "shuttered clinics and testing labs, or reduced hours at other places, resulting in steep declines in the number of screenings, including for breast and colorectal cancers, experts have said."

The Times piece quotes Dr. Lucio N. Gordan, president of the Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute, one of the country's biggest independent oncology groups, as saying that there is "no question…that we are seeing patients with more advanced" cancers.

Dr. Patrick Borgen
The "fear of Covid was more tangible than the fear of missing a screen that detected cancer," reports Dr. Patrick I. Borgen, chief of surgery at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, where he also heads its breast center, the story adds.

Borgen believes healthy people "stayed away to avoid contagion," the piece notes.

And when clinics and other places reopened, it goes on, "some patients…could not easily get an appointment because of pent-up demand. Others skipped regular testing or ignored worrisome symptoms because they were afraid of getting infected or, after losing their jobs, they couldn't afford the cost of a test…even patients at high risk because of their genetic makeup or because they previously had cancer have missed critical screenings."

Dr. Barbara L. McAneny
The Times article also quotes Dr. Barbara L. McAneny, past president of the American Medical Association and chief exec of New Mexico Oncology Hematology Consultants, many of whose patients stayed away, even if they did have insurance, because they couldn't afford the deductibles or co-pays. 

"We know cancers are out there," she reportedly says. "We're seeing that, particularly with our poorer folks who are living on the edge anyway, living paycheck to paycheck."

More information about screenings can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

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