66% of radiation oncologists say new patients are presenting with more advanced-stage cancers


After COVID-19 shutdowns disrupted cancer screenings on a wide scale last year, radiation oncologists are beginning to witness the ill effects.

About two-thirds (66%) of such professionals said they’re now seeing new patients presenting with more advanced-stage cancers. Another 73% said physicians in their practice have noticed that patients are not receiving their regular cancer screenings, according to an American Society for Radiation Oncology survey released Tuesday.

“One year into the COVID-19 pandemic, we already see the consequences of pandemic-driven drops in cancer screening and diagnostics,” Thomas Eichler, MD, chairman of ASTRO’s Board of Directors, said March 30. “Because the pandemic and cancer cause disproportionately more harm for Black and other medically underserved populations, these rates may be even higher for some vulnerable communities,” he added later

The society conducted its online survey between January and February, emailing more than 500 U.S. radiation oncologists. Nearly 120 participated for a response rate of 23%.

Respondents indicated that their practices have largely stopped differing treatments this year. Just 15% of radiation oncologists delayed care in 2021’s first two months, compared to 92% in April 2020. About 12% have pushed back new patient visits versus 75% the previous year.

Meanwhile others continue to struggle procuring protective equipment such as masks and hand sanitizer (40%). With COVID-19 vaccinations continuing to trickle out, 53% of radiation oncologists have been hampered by limited access, staff hesitancy (59%), and the same feelings among patients (52%).

You can read more details about ASTRO’s survey here.

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