Don’t delay cancer screenings during COVID-19

Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) experts urge University of Utah employees, as well as all Utahns, to stay up to date on their cancer screenings during the COVID-19 pandemic. National trends indicate far fewer cancers have been diagnosed in recent months as compared to prior years. There is no evidence to suggest actual cancer cases are down—rather, it is believed diagnoses are down because people have canceled or postponed health appointments, including cancer screenings, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sachin Apte, MD, MS, MBA, HCI chief clinical officer and cancer hospital physician-in-chief, says, “Catching cancer early can save lives and reduce side effects of treatment as well as the amount of treatment required.” Apte notes cancer screenings are one of the best tools available for finding cancer early, when it is most treatable.

Earlier this week, University of Utah Health reported a 4% drop in breast cancer screenings and a 2% drop in colorectal cancer screenings compared to rates before the pandemic. Utah doctors are concerned this means many cancers are going undiagnosed or untreated as people postponed or canceled routine screening appointments.

“I strongly recommend that patients see their doctors and resume the screening they may have put off or rescheduled,” says Apte. “We really want to catch these problems before they become much bigger.”

HCI has many added safety protocols in place to keep patients safe during the pandemic. These include required facial coverings for all who enter HCI, physical distancing in all areas, and rooms and equipment disinfected between every patient. In addition, many providers, hospital staff, and other frontline workers have been vaccinated against COVID-19 to not only protect themselves, but also patients.

“Many of us have probably seen in the news that there were more than 500,000 COVID deaths. That’s a very startling number. It’s a tragic number,” says Apte. “It’s important to remember that a little bit more than that—about 600,000 Americans—die every year from cancer.”

Certain cancer screenings qualify as wellness activities for the WellU employee health care plan discount. To schedule screenings for you or your family, or to learn what screenings are right for you, visit huntsmancancer.org/screening or call 1-888-424-2100.