Delays In Cancer Screenings Like Mammograms Could Lead To Uptick In Deaths

Published: Friday, August 14, 2020 - 11:51am
Updated: Friday, August 14, 2020 - 11:53am

The coronavirus pandemic has led to a significant decline in cancer screenings.

Since the start of the pandemic, the number of mammogram screenings has dropped by nearly half.

Routine mammograms are key to catching breast cancer early. But many women are putting off this test.

Dr. Vilert Loving is the chief of breast imaging at Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center. He says delays in screening could lead to additional deaths — anywhere from 10,000 to 30,000 more nationwide.

"Every year, we project, or actually we have seen, roughly 40,000 breast cancer deaths," he said. "If we're going to see at the high end over 30,000, that's not quite, but almost double the number of breast cancer diagnoses alone. And that's just from this short time period of the coronavirus pandemic."

And it's not just breast cancer screenings that are down. Loving says a recent study found that people are also skipping screenings for colon, esophageal, lung, gastric and pancreatic cancers.

“And all of those cancers, all six of them, substantially dropped by about 50%. So the worst drop or the most significant drop was breast cancer, which was a little bit over 50% decrease in diagnoses. That’s a significant drop.”

And it’s not just in the U.S. Loving says other countries are seeing a similar drop in the number of cancer diagnoses and that could lead to more cancer deaths in the future.

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