Health experts: COVID scared U.S. patients from regular screenings

Researchers with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. has been more deadly than previously thought.

In addition to the 221,500 people who’ve perished, researchers say there have been 299,050 “excess deaths,” from January to October of 2020. Two-thirds of that total is attributed to COVID-19. And, largest percentage increase, 26.5%, is seen in the Latinx community, ages 25-to-44.

Doctor Nam Cho, medical director of the Sobrato Cancer Center in San Jose, believes COVID scared off some cancer patients, who were worried they’d contract the virus.

“It created, led to a lot of reluctance of cancer patients to seek out their regular screenings, as well as to see their physicians when they were developing symptoms that might be related to a new diagnosis of cancer or a recurrence of their cancer,” said Dr. Cho.

The “excess death” comparison is weighed against recorded deaths over the same time period from 2015-to-2019.

Experts say the COVID-fueled pause in care or screenings, allows cancer to take root, complicating a potential cure – and possibly leading to death.

“We are seeing an increase in the stage of a disease that patients are presenting with. That is patients are presenting with bigger tumors than the ordinarily would present,” said Dr. Eben Rosenthal, medical director of the Stanford University Cancer Service Line. “If you present with a more advanced disease, that reduces your survival.”

In Early October, the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer found sidelining breast cancer treatments over Covid fears increases the risk of death. Some patients said they had relied on self-exams instead of going to see a doctor.

"You do your own breast exams at home and if you don't really feel anything that you're like you feel comfortable enough just saying, oh, i'll do it next year. I'll do it next month, or next week," Paola Pena, a New York City breast cancer patient said Oct. 8.

Researcher say Health officials stress Covid screens, sterilization of rooms, and masks and gloves remove the risk of infection.

“Let’s stay safe from covid and these preventable cancers,” said Dr. Rosenthal.

Health experts said the failing to seek medical care despite the pandemic may be creating a choice of going into a hospital, or facing one’s own mortality.