Doctors fear rise in cancer deaths over next decade


BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — The coronavirus has killed nearly 750,000 people nationwide. 

Amid all this loss, the pandemic is quietly sparking another deadly trend: rising deaths from cancer.

“A lot of people know about these terrible numbers that are being predicted for additional deaths due to breast cancer and colorectal cancer due to the lack of screenings during COVID,” Adventist Health director of breast services Dr. Francesca Hoehne said.

It’s a trend that Dr. Ravi Patel, director of the Comprehensive Blood and Cancer Center, has seen firsthand.

“Sadly speaking, during the pandemic, people were not coming in,” Dr. Patel said.

In a study published in oncology journal The Lancet, researchers found that missed diagnoses in Chile will likely result in a 10 to 20 percent increase in cancer deaths over the next four years. A similar study has not been conducted in the U.S., but experts put the number of additional deaths over the next decade at around 10,000.

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To illustrate why this might happen, Dr. Patel asks us to imagine a man battling prostate cancer — a man who would have had his cancer detected early with a regular screening.

“Because of the COVID, he’s trying to delay things, and he’s already been diagnosed with prostate cancer,” Dr. Patel said. “Once his PSA (prostate-specific antigen, a key metric in determining severity of prostate cancer) in a few months goes to above ten, the chances of getting a good cure diminishes.”

Right now, the best thing medical professionals — and those at risk of cancer — can do is make screening and testing a top priority.

“If you detect it early, the chances of a cure increase tremendously,” Dr. Patel said.

CBCC is offering free lung cancer screenings to at-risk individuals throughout the month of November. To find out if you qualify, answer a few questions online or call 865-2573.

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