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COVID-19: How the Pandemic has led to the Failure to Diagnose and Treat Cancer

Posted in Medical Malpractice on Wednesday, May 12, 2021.

From March until July 2020, statistics show a significant drop in cancer screenings being carried out across the USA. In addition to those being screened, there was also a substantial drop in the number of patients receiving treatment, surgery, and visits to consultants. Oncology across the world was disrupted as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

At the pandemic’s peak in April 2020, screenings for breast cancer were down 85%, Colon screenings were down 75%, prostate screenings were down 74%, and lung screenings down 56%. There’s no argument that these numbers are significant and would have led to the delay of many patients being correctly diagnosed and promptly treated. Moreover, experts have warned that if the trend continues, then there will be an increase in the mortality rate for years to come.

The Impact of a Delayed Cancer Diagnosis

When a cancer screening is missed or delayed, it can lead to the undetected spread of cancer, unnecessary chemotherapy, and radiation therapy, and, at worst, a higher mortality rate. Early diagnosis can increase the chances of the cancer being treatable and prevent complications. However, if there is a delay that could have been avoided, the consequences can lead to:

  • Delays in starting treatment
  • Increased physical and psychological suffering
  • Increase the requirement for invasive surgery
  • Reduce the chances of recovery
  • Increased stress and anxiety for the patient and their family

At the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, non-urgent screening was postponed to concentrate healthcare professionals’ efforts on treating Covid-19 patients. However, even after the stay-at-home order came to an end, the effects were still being felt, and Oncology treatments continued to lag.

Barriers to Accessing Treatment

Many cancer patients have had their treatments delayed s a result of the pandemic. Predictions indicate that 1000’s of avoidable deaths will result from the decisions taken to prioritize other practices over the treatment of cancer patients and will be seen over the next five years. In particular, the difficulties many patients have experienced accessing radiotherapy and chemotherapy are central to curing and extending people’s lives with existing cancer.

Confusion Between Covid and Lung Cancer

It’s been reported that the diagnosis of lung cancer during the pandemic has declined due to a confusion of symptoms with Covid-19. Those patients who reported coughing symptoms were asked to stay at home. As a result, those with suspected lung cancer experienced much longer wait times to see a GP and receive a correct diagnosis. In some regions, including Pennsylvania, referrals for lung cancer screening fell by 75% at the pandemic’s peak.

The impact of Covid-19 makes it more difficult to assess if the delayed diagnosis of cancer were down to medical negligence and which was unavoidable as a result of the pandemic. If you have any queries regarding failure to diagnose or treat cancer, we recommend contacting Soloff & Zervanos, P.C a medical negligence specialist who will advise on your individual circumstances.