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Americans skipping cancer screenings is raising concern ahead of Breast Cancer Awareness Month

The weekly average number of people diagnosed with breast cancer has dropped by 51.8 percent during the pandemic.
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto
Pink ribbon and stethoscope on white background, space for text. Breast cancer concept

Thursday will mark the beginning of "Breast Cancer Awareness Month" and there is real concern this year as a result of the pandemic.

Recent data show one-third of Americans have skipped scheduled cancer screenings during the COVID-19 pandemic, and even more have missed routine doctor's appointments.

"There are a couple of problems. One problem is some patients are hesitant to go see their doctors or go into health care facilities, during the pandemic. That's one piece of the problem, but the other is that some of those services just haven't been available to patients, at all," said Dr. Paul Wright, surgical oncologist at Spectrum Health Cancer Center. "This is particularly true when you think of cancer screenings. Things like getting your colonoscopy done and getting skin checked by a dermatologist or having your mammogram done, or even just a routine checkup with your primary care physician. There's been a lot of those things that patients just haven't had access to."

The research published by JAMA Network Open, found a steep decline in the number of new cancer diagnoses with six common types of cancer: breast cancer, colorectal cancer, esophageal cancer, gastric cancer, lung cancer and pancreatic cancer.

According to BreastCancer.org "during the pandemic, the weekly average number of people diagnosed with these six cancers dropped by 46.4 percent. Specifically, breast cancer diagnoses dropped by 51.8 percent — from 2,208 to 1,064."

Wright said he would not advise people, especially those that fall into high-risk categories or have a family history, to wait any longer.

Norman Sharpless, the director of the U.S. National Cancer Institute, warned in a June editorial that delayed diagnoses could lead to as many as 10,000 extra deaths over 10 years in breast and colorectal cancer alone.

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