June 1, 2020

A Pandemic of Cancer Cases?

Delayed by the coronavirus outbreak, a wave of undiagnosed cancer cases may be building

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A sharp upswing in cancer diagnoses, harder-to-treat advanced cancers, and cancer deaths may be among the many unexpected consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Facing an onslaught of COVID-19 patients, hospitals have been forced to reduce or delay cancer screening and diagnostic tests. And symptomatic but undiagnosed cancer patients have been reluctant to seek care, out of fear of being infected with the coronavirus in a clinical setting.

The result, as Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center hematologist/oncologist Mikkael Sekeres, MD, MS, warns in his latest New York Times column, may be a coming surge of cancer cases, even as COVID-19 cases are leveling off.

“Those of us in oncology fear a second pandemic of ‘new’ cancer diagnoses, which in reality have been brewing for months,” writes Dr. Sekeres, who is Director of the Leukemia Program and Vice-chair for Clinical Research.. “And not just new cancers but more advanced cancers. It is entirely possible that, in the latter part of 2020 and into 2021, we will see a shift to higher stages of cancer because of these delays in diagnoses. We may lose our window to intervene early, when cancer is still at an early stage, and eliminate it.”

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Read Dr. Sekeres’ full column here.

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