In Need of Cancer Screening or Surveillance? Don’t Let the Pandemic Stop You

While the threat of COVID-19 still looms across the country, the risks of delaying cancer screenings – or active surveillance for those patients who are currently in treatment – could be greater than people think, says City of Hope’s Dr. Ravi Salgia.

While the threat of COVID-19 still looms across the country, the risks of delaying cancer screenings – or active surveillance for those patients who are currently in treatment – could be greater than people think, says City of Hope’s Dr. Ravi Salgia.

In an interview with CURE®, Salgia, who is a thoracic oncologist and the Arthur & Rosalie Kaplan Chair in medical oncology, explained how doctors are seeing a drop in screenings for things such as colon cancer and lung cancer, which is disconcerting.

“If you don't get screened, you may not be able to diagnose the early-stage disease, especially, for example, solid tumors,” Salgia said. “If you can catch it at an earlier stage, that is a chance for a cure. The later stages become more challenging.”

Salgia noted that surveillance is also being delayed, which could impact patients negatively down the line.

“Surveillance is important, because let's say if somebody was cured of their cancer, and they need to have a repeat CAT scan, but they might delay that because they don't necessarily want to be exposed,” Salgia said. “There's that fear as well.”

Ultimately, Salgia explained, regardless of the pandemic, patients and their caregivers should still be proactive about their health and continue to get screenings and surveillance as scheduled: “Do not, do not, do not delay your care. That's really the most important message I can see.”

Transcription:

I'm a medical oncologist have been doing this for over 30 years now. And we have never seen a pandemic like this in our lifetime, and this is very concerning. And what's happening for our patients is that there's a lot of trepidation in terms of screening right now. People don't want to get their screening for, let's say, colon cancer, or breast cancer, or prostate cancer, or lung cancer, and especially for lung cancer. As a thoracic medical oncologist, I take care of lung cancer patients, and we're seeing that huge drop in the screening.

It really starts with the screening, because if you don't get screened, you may not be able to diagnose the early-stage disease, especially for example, for solid tumors. If you can catch it at an earlier stage, that is a chance for a cure. The later stages become more challenging.

And the more you delay, one screening and one diagnostic testing, the more issues we will have over the future may not affect us immediately, necessarily, but it will affect us in six months, in any year and few years. That's what we're worried about. So, we really recommend for patients, if they can still get their screening done. And it's appropriate, and it's safe, that they should do it.

Then along with screening really comes to surveillance part, too. And surveillance is important, because let's say if somebody got cured of their cancer, and they need to have a repeat CAT scan, but they might delay that because they don't necessarily want to be exposed. And so, there's that fear as well.

So, screening surveillance go hand in hand. The pandemic has hurt us a lot, and especially our patients, and their caregivers, their family members, their friends, because the more you delay, the tougher the chances are for a cure and or the right therapies.