One of the many casualties of the COVID crisis are the millions of individuals who are unable to get timely cancer screenings for an unknown amount of time due to cancelled or rescheduled appointments:
—colorectal cancer (colonoscopies)
—breast cancer (exams and mammograms)
—prostate cancer (PSA and DRE)
—cervical cancer (HPV and Pap)
—skin cancer (exams)
—lung cancer (low dose CT)
If a cancer is found during this time, it will most likely be one that is advanced and symptomatic. These are obviously urgent matters and can be treated. However, after the crisis subsides we can expect a surge in the # of cancer diagnoses that would have otherwise been detected at an earlier stage.
I would recommend scheduling these screenings as soon as they become more readily accessible. Many of these tests and exams can still be done at this time, and I encourage you to contact your healthcare providers to inquire.
The government and health care facilities are currently focusing their efforts on the impending demand on space, staff and equipment to manage in the influx of sick patients. The federal and state governments have recommended that we limit all non-essential planned surgeries and procedures, including dental, until further notice.
This table shows the CMS Adult Elective Surgery and Procedures Recommendations:
The duration of the current viral epidemic cannot be predicted at this time. Given this uncertainty and in light of government orders, certain urologists, breast surgeons, medical oncologists, gynecologic oncologists, GI surgeons, otolaryngologists, pulmonologists and other specialists may temporarily close or provide services predominantly via telehealth.
As a reminder for those physicians and patients, radiation oncologists are available as a resource to assess recently diagnosed cancer patients in need of further in person evaluations and followup.
As a radiation oncologist, I have the training and expertise to diagnose, workup and discuss treatment choices for almost all malignant conditions and can serve at this time to fill service gaps created by the epidemic. Also, as a radiation oncologist, I may offer treatment alternatives to delayed surgery for selected cases amenable to effective treatment with radiotherapy (e.g., prostate cancer, lung cancer and skin cancer) if the surgical specialist determines that a patient should be treated without further delay.