by John R. Fischer
, Senior Reporter | February 23, 2022
The American Cancer Society’s National Consortium for Cancer Screening and Care has nine new guidelines to help providers restore cancer screening rates to pre-pandemic levels faster.
Cancer screening rates are still significantly lower than historical baselines two years into the pandemic. Fears of contracting the virus have deterred patients from seeking out care and keeping appointments, along with temporary delays in certain procedures by hospitals early on. One study found that breast and cervical cancer screenings dropped by 87% and 84%, respectively
, in April 2020, compared to the previous five-year averages for the month.
And another study last year found that nearly 10 million scheduled cancer screenings did not take place
in 2020. The sharpest declines were in breast, prostate and colorectal cancers, which raise the risk of early-stage, curable malignancies progressing to more advanced stages.
“Many health systems have been able to resume cancer screenings to pre-pandemic levels but some have not. There are long-standing issues like structural racism that factor in and also issues like front-line workers and hourly workers, loss of employment and loss of insurance that are impacting both healthy lifestyles, access to care and ultimately delays in cancer diagnosis either through screening or evaluation of new symptoms,” Dr. Laura Makaroff, primary care physician and senior vice president of prevention and early detection, told HCB News.
Made up of leading organizations focused on improving cancer screening and treatment services, the ACS National Consortium laid out its recommended points in its report, Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic: Improving Cancer Screening and Care in the U.S.
- Engaging in partnerships, coalitions, and roundtables focused on adopting evidence-based cancer screening interventions and policies.
- Coordinating campaigns to promote cancer screening as a public health priority.
- Supporting and expanding proven screening programs to communities that are historically excluded and underserved.
- Adopt improved quality measures, accountability measures and institutional goal-setting for equitable outcomes.
- Accelerate innovations and interventions that better expand equitable access to cancer screening and care.
- Form better trust in public health and health care systems with a forward-looking, whole-person approach.
- Strengthen health system and community preparedness plans for health disruptions by including cancer and other chronic disease care in the plans.
- Strengthen transdisciplinary teamwork in support of healthcare delivery.
- Create better understanding of the outcomes in cancer screening and care by collecting and utilizing demographic and social determinants of health data.