Doctors sound alarm as coronavirus sparks drop in cancer diagnoses

The coronavirus pandemic may be dissuading people from getting cancer screenings, and health experts are beginning to raise concerns.

Early measures aimed at minimizing the virus’ spread urged health care providers to delay “elective” in-person visits, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Those measures nixed things such as routine checkups and cancer screenings -- and Komodo Health, which has a large medical claims database, said in late April that millions of Americans had postponed health care tests.

CANCER SCREENINGS PLUMMET IN US AMID CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC: REPORT

Now, doctors are worried that people avoiding such screenings because they fear COVID-19 may be hurting their chances to overcome undiagnosed cancers, ABC News reported Thursday.

At the University of Pennsylvania Health System, new skin cancer diagnoses were down 80 percent from February into March, according to the report.

The American Cancer Society, which had earlier encouraged the postponement of nonessential screenings, is adjusting its coronavirus response. It is now urging patients to return to seeking cancer screenings if they feel safe about visiting their health care providers, according to the report.

On May 8, the American Cancer Society said that more than half of its grant recipients had halted their cancer research amid the pandemic.

“It is abundantly clear that the COVID-19 pandemic is having a major impact on cancer research,” Dr. William C. Phelps, the society’s senior vice president of extramural research, said at the time.

The situation led the American Cancer Society to delay its next round of grants from July to September.

The ABC report also detailed declines in visits by new cancer patients from hospitals around the country – as far apart as New York and Nebraska.

“There are fewer people walking through the doors, so you certainly are seeing fewer new patients coming through the doors,” Dr. David Cohn, the chief medical officer at Ohio State University’s Comprehensive Cancer Center, told the outlet.

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The CDC seems to have taken notice, as well.

It announced a new framework Tuesday for non-coronavirus care. The guidance weighs the rate at which COVID-19 is impacting a given community and the non-coronavirus health risks involved if seeking care is delayed.

“A consequence of the pandemic has been the under-utilization of important medical services for patients with non-COVID-19-related urgent and emergent health needs,” the CDC said. “As the pandemic continues, healthcare systems must balance the need to provide necessary services while minimizing risk to patients and healthcare personnel.”