RICHMOND, Va. -- COVID-19 put a pause on many routine medical appointments and procedures. Now there is stunning news on how the coronavirus could affect the number of breast cancer patients in the long term.
In a recent speech, National Cancer Institute Director Dr. Ned Sharpless said the COVID-19 pandemic will likely cause at least 10,000 excess deaths from breast cancer and colorectal cancer over the next 10 years in the U.S.
The startling number in deaths is due to when healthcare facilities shut down during the pandemic, causing a delay in procedures such as mammograms.
"Initially I was actually surprised as well,” Dr. Kandace McGuire, Chief of Breast Surgery at VCU Massey Center said. "I think what Dr. Sharpless was saying not only the delay in screenings but a delay in treatments that we know work."
According to NCI modeling, there could potentially be a one percent increase in deaths over the next 10 years, but a three percent increase over the next five years.
“When you consider what we see in the U.S. alone, we see 40,000 to 45,000 patients die per year. When you tack on another three percent on top of that the next five years, that's going to be a huge loss for our female patients and for the ladies we know and love,” Dr. McGuire said.
In an effort to flatten the curve, Dr. McGuire is urging patients to get screened soon.
"If your mammogram has gotten delayed, it is time to get in there and get it. It needs to be done now and not 6 months from now, not a year from now,” Dr. McGuire said.
If women are still worried about going in to get a mammogram, Dr. McGuire stresses healthcare facilities are safe. They're sanitized more often and patients are screened before they come in for the procedure.
Read more of Dr. Sharpless editorial here.