Pandemic Leads to Delays in Crucial Early Cancer Screening Tests

Clayton Lau, MD, discusses the consequences of patients delaying cancer screenings due to fears of COVID-19.

Clayton Lau, MD, chief of the division of urology and urologic oncology, director of the prostate cancer program, and head of retroperitoneal surgery at City of Hope, discusses the consequences of patients delaying cancer screenings due to fears of COVID-19.

Lau says that many patients may have overlooked minor health issues instead of seeing a physician during the pandemic or have not received regular wellness checks while healthy. These delays have led to later-stage diagnoses of cancer in many patients.

Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing, which is crucial for prostate cancer screening, is one test that many patients have delayed, according to Lau. Instead of getting PSA tested once a year or once every 2 years, patients who are at risk of prostate cancer have skipped getting tested since the start of the pandemic. He also observed that patients who cancelled their appointments are not rescheduling them even after they are less cautious of COVID-19.

Delaying PSA and other tests that can detect cancers early leads to these conditions being diagnosed later when there are fewer treatment options and worse survival outcomes, making it important for patients to resume regular check-ups.

TRANSCRIPTION:

0:08 | Many patients are not seeking their physicians for their well-check [visits]. Or they might just overlook it and say, “I [have] other issues [that] are going on, maybe it might not be safe to go to the physicians and to be evaluated.” So what we're seeing is patients are being delayed in their diagnosis of some of these issues. For what we see here [at City of Hope], for PSA screening, [which] is important for prostate cancer screening, many patients now, instead of getting their PSAs done yearly, or even once every 2 years, many will…skip it for a couple years now, or haven't done this because of the fact they're fearful of going to physicians, or their appointments [are] cancelled. And sometimes for many people that are busy, they're not rescheduling. So, how that translates is that essentially, these issues are diagnosed later, and potentially in a different situation than if they were found earlier.