By Travis Decaminada
Key Takeaway: Due to the current pandemic many people may be deferring or avoiding medical treatment and screenings. Because of this, cancer diagnoses may dramatically increase in the coming years. Further, other diseases may be going undiagnosed as well, posing a risk not just to individuals but also to those around them.
Staying home and minimizing contact with one another has limited the spread of Covid-19. However, because many people may have put off their standard physicals and checkups, and because some medical facilities have been operating at reduced capacity, a wave of cancer diagnoses could be in the future, reports ProPublica.
Per the article, preventative cancer screenings may have dropped by as much as 94% during certain months of the pandemic, whereas screenings for specific cancers may have dropped even lower. From the article: “At Mount Sinai, the number of mammograms dropped by 96% during that same period.” Reportedly, for some forms of cancer, diagnoses have declined by more than 50% from years prior. This could lead to thousands of “excess” cancer deaths over the next several years, just from breast and colorectal cancer alone.
Cancer research has reportedly been disrupted as well, per Science Magazine. Not only have some scientists allegedly switched from cancer research to Covid-19 research, but clinical trials are also being canceled, delayed, altered, or reduced. Ultimately, this may mean deferred cancer treatments and thus, potentially, increased fatalities.
Impact on Other Diseases
One study conducted in Europe found that mortality rates for non-coronavirus illnesses had reportedly increased, with the authors calling for increased attention to the problem. Among cancer, fatalities related to pneumonia, other respiratory diseases, and sepsis are also reportedly on the rise.
Moreover, another study, published in the Journal of Genetics and Medicine, identified several key difficulties that people with “rare undiagnosed diseases” are facing as a result of Covid-19. To list a few:
- “Barriers to accessing essential health care.
- Uncertainty and fear regarding COVID-19 risk.
- Exacerbated physical and mental health challenges.
- Magnified impacts of reduced educational and therapeutic services.”
Individuals suffering from underdiagnosed diseases may also pose a risk to those around them. Last week the ISO Emerging Issues team reported on how undiagnosed sleep-disorders may be linked to car crashes. Accidents caused by undiagnosed diseases are likely not limited to the road and may even extend into the workplace (information on occupational disease and injuries from the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention can be found here).