How COVID Set Back the Fight Against Cancer, and Why It’s Only Getting Worse
According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), around 9.4 million people missed the cancer screenings they would have undergone in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. During the first couple months of the pandemic lockdown, there was a 75% drop in colorectal cancer screenings, according to a separate study from 2020. Although the COVID-19 public health emergency has ended, many patients still have not had the recommended screenings, which is alarming given that one or more years of missed screenings could endanger the lives of patients with aggressive cancers. The reasons for the continued delay in screenings include job losses, higher health care costs, and nursing and tech shortages that result in longer wait times for screenings. According to Texas Oncology Executive Vice President Debra Patt, procedures like CAT scans are now taking three to seven weeks to arrange compared to one week previously. “What we saw during the pandemic – especially during times of high COVID – was that people had fear to reach their doctors, and so they just avoided what they thought was maybe an elective test,” Patt said. “What’s happened since then is that people’s lives are getting in the way of their health care.” Experts recommend that providers reach out to patients who are overdue for screenings or hold outreach events to raise awareness. Others suggest efforts to address the shortage of health care workers or eliminating prior authorization and other insurance red tape. However, there are concerns that the outcome of federal lawsuit over the Affordable Care Act’s preventive services coverage mandate could make cancer screenings less accessible to patients.
Read more on The Hill.