5 Reasons Not to Delay Cancer Care During COVID-19

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

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Cancer care is essential care. While many appointments and procedures had to be postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, routine cancer screenings and treatments cannot be delayed indefinitely.

"COVID-19 is still a concern for the general population, but that shouldn’t mean cancer care takes a back seat," says Jeffrey Drebin, MD, PhD, Chair of the Department of Surgery at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK). "Safe, comprehensive cancer care is available at all of our locations, including MSK’s outpatient centers in New Jersey."

Below, he explains why you shouldn't hold off on making an appointment.

1. Delaying care can worsen your outcome.

The death rate from all types of cancer over the last 40 years has gone from roughly 50 percent to about 30 percent due to regular screening and early diagnosis and treatment.

Putting off screening for cancers such as in the breast, colon and lung could mean hundreds of thousands of preventable deaths from cancer in the U.S. each year. MSK’s treatments are more effective when cancer is found early. When people don’t get the appropriate screening, their tumors will be found later, when they are less likely to be curable.

2. Safety precautions help reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection.

At MSK, precautions have been put in place to make it safe for patients to come in for their appointments and procedures. These include routine COVID-19 testing of patients and staff, universal mask policy, social distancing measures, staggering appointments and significantly reducing the number of visitors at our locations.

In addition, surgeries for patients with the virus are done in a separate operating room, and we have isolation procedures in place so that they are never in contact with non-COVID-19 patients, including during inpatient care.

Rick DeWitt
MSK teams use rigorous safety measures, ensuring patients can continue the care they need. (Photo Credit: Rick DeWitt)

3. For the vast majority of people, cancer is a greater threat to a person’s life than the virus.

The reason to not come in for care should not be fear of COVID-19. But if you become infected, we are ready. The cancer care teams at MSK - bolstered by a strong group of infectious disease experts - are well-equipped to minimize patients’ risks and are prepared to manage problems that may be related to the virus.

4. Virtual cancer care is an option.

For many patients, appointments with their MSK care team may be done remotely through telemedicine visits. Telemedicine appointments are available when appropriate for both initial and follow-up visits.

5. Support is available.

We understand that you may be feeling particularly vulnerable during this time. MSK works hard to safely deliver the most effective care and provide much-needed support resources for both patients and their caregivers every step of the way. These include virtual support groups, counseling and integrative medicine services.

If you need to come to MSK for care, you should know that we can help keep patients in touch with their loved ones over the phone, video calls and other forms of technology. If you don’t have your own device, we offer tablets and phones to help facilitate those virtual connections while you are in our care.

Learn more about Memorial Sloan Kettering's outpatient cancer centers in Basking Ridge, Montvale and Middletown at mskcc.org/newjersey.

MSK is a member of the Memorial Sloan Kettering – Hackensack Meridian Health Partnership.

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This article originally appeared on the Middletown Patch