More Cancers Being Diagnosed at Later Stages
The online survey was conducted from January 15 to February 7, 2021.
“We were certainly seeing individuals delaying their arrival for radiation due to concerns about COVID,” Dr. Karen Winkfield, executive director of the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance in Nashville, Tennessee, said at the press conference. “But we’ve done a tremendous job in radiation oncology departments across the country making sure our patients and staff are safe.”
Patients are also coming back for cancer screening, Winkfield added.
Shelley Fuld Nasso, executive director of the National Coalition for Cancer Survival, in Silver Spring, Md., Said that while telemedicine has been shown to be important, many patients do not have access or lack the ability to use necessary technology.
For many patients, telemedicine creates a feeling that the necessary emotional support has been lost, along with a sense of isolation and limited access to the cancer care team, Nasso said.
“Patients have told us they want to be able to have access to the whole team and not just the one person they could see in telehealth,” she said.
Nasso also mentioned two patients whose doctors initially passed off their cancer as something else.
“[These patients] had to be advocates to get their diagnosis – none of their cancers would have been detected by screening – but they knew the symptoms they were experiencing were not correct and they sought treatment, even though they were facing delays in diagnosis, “she said.
Not everyone is willing or able to defend themselves, Nasso added.
“We have to make sure that the system works for everyone, regardless of their health literacy or their ability to defend themselves,” she said.
Unemployment linked to the pandemic and the resulting loss of health insurance also took a toll on cancer screening and diagnosis, according to Dr Laura Makaroff, senior vice president of prevention and early detection at the American Cancer Society.
But Makaroff predicted that as more Americans will be vaccinated, an increase in cancer screening and diagnoses will follow.
“People will feel more comfortable getting health care, but I think as a nation we also need to recognize that we have work to do to reduce these barriers so that patients can participate in care. safely and understand the risk of delaying care. or delaying testing is far greater than any risk of potential exposure to COVID, ”Makaroff said.
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