WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — The pandemic has resulted in a disturbing trend among people who have health concerns.
Many patients who avoided seeing a doctor missed getting a cancer diagnosis in a more timely manner.
In any other year a steep decline in cancer diagnoses would be good news. But this year a massive drop in diagnoses occurred during the pandemic. Eyewitness News healthbeat reporter Mark Hiller spoke with a cancer doctor about the implications.
“The sooner the cancer diagnosis is the better,” Geisinger oncologist Dr. Raghava Levaka said.
But Dr. Levaka points to the study in JAMA that shows a nearly 50 percent decline in cancer diagnoses occurring during the pandemic. It’s believed to be the result of people avoiding medical settings for fear of catching COVID-19 from infected individuals.
“If you had an abnormality that needed to be diagnosed sooner than later, no matter what we have to get that checked,” Dr. Levaka said.
The study done in the U.S. found a significant decline in newly identified patients with six common types of cancer ranging from breast cancer to lung cancer.
“The more aggressive cancers like pancreatic cancers, lung cancers and esophageal cancers the mortality is high and especially diagnosed at later stages,” Dr. Levaka said.
The findings mirror those of other countries suggesting a delayed cancer diagnosis is the result of the coronavirus crisis. That delay brings serious consequences
“You may diagnose the cancer at a later stage of the disease process which may be a little difficult to treat and even may not be able to treat at that time,” Dr. Levaka said.
It’s why Dr. Levaka has an urgent message for the community.
“Please connect with your primary care physicians. Call our health care systems, okay, and get the vital health screenings and procedures to be done in an appropriate time,” Dr. Levaka said.
The fear is that we will see substantial increases in the number of avoidable cancer deaths as a result of diagnostic delays due to the coronavirus crisis. You can check out the study findings here.