Doctors say COVID-19 fears are scaring cancer patients away from the office

Covid fear keeping cancer patients away from doctors

ATLANTA — With the COVID-19 pandemic dominating headlines and controlling everyday life, its impact has reached far beyond those infected with the virus.

According to some doctors, it’s kept people away from the office and in many cases, left them unable to diagnose potential life-changing problems including catching cancer cases early.

Dr. Jeffery Metts of Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Atlanta tells Channel 2′s Dave Huddleston a recent study indicates fear of getting COVID-19 may lead to as many as 80,000 missed cancer diagnoses and treatments.

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Metts told Huddleston the challenge is convincing patients to weigh the balance of not getting treatment and disease progression while having offices as safe as possible. He says facilities have to share with patients what they are doing to keep offices COVID-19 free to remove the fear and get patients back into treatment.

“We start screening patients on the phone, we screen them again at a single point of entry and we screen them again when they check in for their appointments,” Metts said.

“Cancer diagnoses are down almost 40% compared to this time last year,” Metts added. “We know there’s about 1.7 million cases of cancer diagnosed every year and we know they are from many years of data.”

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Metts believes something else is causing the drop. He says fear of COVID-19 has stopped people from seeing doctors which can lead to more problems.

“What we’re afraid of is this shadow curve that’s developing. This surge that we’re preparing for will lead us to having a larger number of diagnoses at a shorter period of time and there will be more advanced cases,” Metts said.

“When safety measures have been implemented, it’s important to get your pap smear, your mammography, your colonoscopy, your PSA. All the screenings in every single one of those is down 80 to 90% from last year,” Metts said.

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