Local doctor says pandemic has increased cancer mortality

Skipped doctors visits and screenings during the COVID-19 pandemic paint a grim reality for cancer patients.
Published: Mar. 30, 2021 at 5:53 PM EDT
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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - An oncologist with Vidant Health and ECU says this is the first time in decades that the number of people dying from cancer has risen.

“For the first time in 30 years, the mortality due to cancer has actually gone up,” said Dr. Vijay Chaudhary, “In the last year, because of COVID, a lot of these patients...did not come for their physician visits or did not undergo the necessary screening.”

Chaudhary cites three separate studies here, here, and here that show these trends in the United States and the U.K.

Chaudhary said many who put doctor visits and screenings on the back burner during the pandemic may be looking at a deadlier diagnosis in the future.

“It is all related to COVID and lack of patients coming in for routine visits,” he explained.

“Patients who are not being screened, are not diagnosed with the cancer at an earlier stage in which the treatment would be more definitive and it would be more than likely curative. So we are not diagnosing those patients at an earlier stage of disease, which is going to lead to increased burden of cancer. It’s going to lead to patients presenting with higher volume of disease, more advanced stages of disease,” said Dr. Chaudhary.

He said they are still analyzing the data but expect to see more of this in the future. In light of this, he urges everyone to keep going to their yearly doctor visits and screenings.

This comes as Senator Thom Tillis announced his own prostate cancer diagnosis on Monday. He said he caught it early after an annual physical and stresses the importance of early detection.

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