March 5, 2021

As disturbing trends emerge, UW Health urges cancer screening appointments

Madison, Wis. - Recently, the UW Carbone Cancer Center, alongside the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, the American Cancer Society and 76 other organizations, signed a letter to the public encouraging patients to resume cancer screening and treatment during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The letter (pdf) examines distressing trends showing a significant drop-off in cancer screening and treatment compared to pre-pandemic levels.

As the letter states, "Recent studies found the number of cervical, colorectal, breast, prostate and lung cancer screening tests dropped dramatically due to concerns about COVID-19. Studies have also noted a significant drop in cancer diagnoses and delays in active treatment. This is concerning because identifying and treating cancer early significantly improves outcomes from cancer, a disease in which it's estimated more than 600,000 people died from in the U.S. in 2020."

Cancer screenings like mammograms or colonoscopies save lives. The National Cancer Institute predicts almost 10,000 excess deaths in the U.S. from breast and colorectal cancer alone over the next 10 years because of pandemic-related delays in cancer screening and treatment. UW Carbone Cancer Center actually provided invaluable data on cancer screenings to the National Cancer Institute for their recent editorials examining the impacts of the pandemic on cancer diagnosis.

Providers and staff at UW Carbone have worked diligently to ensure our cancer patients, some of our most vulnerable community members during the pandemic, are safe to receive screenings and treatments. There are increased virtual care options, space for distancing in waiting areas, and of course PPE use and thorough sanitation of all care spaces.

Health experts are thrilled to see more people vaccinated every day, but they urge the public not to wait until the pandemic is over and everyone is vaccinated to schedule a cancer screening. If you are due for a mammogram, colonoscopy or other cancer screening, or missed one in 2020, call your provider as soon as possible to schedule an appointment. Earlier screenings lead to earlier diagnosis, which is directly connected to less invasive treatments and more successful outcomes.