Doctors Concerned That Cancer Death Rates May Increase Due To The Pandemic

Boca Raton, FL – A new report shows that the U.S. cancer death rate has fallen by the largest yearly amount on record. It’s the second year in a row that the death rate has dropped. Doctors attribute the lower rates to better treatments and screenings. But this year, doctors are concerned that missed cancer screenings because of the pandemic will result in some cancers being discovered at a later stage, possibly increasing the cancer death rate over previous years.

Dr. Thomas Morrissey, Director of Gynecologic Oncology at the Eugene M. & Christine E. Lynn Cancer Institute of Baptist Health South Florida in Boca Raton, says, “Unfortunately, COVID has caused a lot of indirect problems which we are just now beginning to see the magnitude. Data is emerging from healthcare systems in California which have shown a significant decrease in the amount of patients going for Pap smears and HPV tests over the last year, and this pattern of delaying routine screening will probably extend to multiple other disease sites like colon and breast as well. It is difficult to say exactly what the impact will be, but hopefully with the distribution of the vaccine, we will be able to vaccinate everyone and hopefully return to our normal schedules and catch up on any missed screening tests. “

If caught early, many forms of cancer are highly survivable. According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, cervical cancer has a 92% survival rate if caught early. The 5-year survival rate for breast cancer that is detected early and in the localized stage is about 99%.

Dr. Morrissey and Baptist Health South Florida are working in partnership with the Promise Fund of Florida to make sure all women have access to these vital screenings. The non-profit organization seeks to eliminate barriers to quality healthcare and reduce and prevent the progression of breast and cervical cancer, especially for the estimated 80,000 uninsured women in our local communities.

Dr. Morrissey says these partnerships are critical to helping more people survive cancer, “Both as a partner in patient education and the invaluable help of a navigator to assist a patient to go in the right direction and help make sure there is adequate follow-up.”