Nebraska DHHS, UNMC encourage cancer screenings during pandemic

Apar Kishor Ganti, M.D., University of Nebraska Medical Center staff photo taken in the Michael...
Apar Kishor Ganti, M.D., University of Nebraska Medical Center staff photo taken in the Michael F. Sorrell Center for Health Science Education on Thursday, January 30, 2020.(Kent Sievers | University of Nebraska Medical Center)
Published: Oct. 22, 2021 at 1:43 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (WOWT) - As COVID-19 continues to steal the attention of the masses, cancer remains a leading cause of death in the United States as people dismiss check-ups and other preventative measures amid the pandemic.

Nebraska’s Department of Health and Human Services report an estimated 606,520 Americans suffered from a cancer-related death in 2020. But even with cancer death tolls decreasing over the last two decades due to improved research, disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic are causing people to miss preventative procedures.

The DHHS says that after the US emergency declaration went into effect for the pandemic, institutions such as the American Cancer Society recommended that people pause their cancer screenings until further notice. They report Epic Health Research Network estimates that, between Jan. 2020, and April 21, 2020, screenings for breast, colon, and cervix cancers dropped by 94%, 86%, and 94% as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

With such a significant drop in screenings, Omaha area hospitals have hosted free screening events for the general public. However, hospitals in Omaha have also noted an increase in women with more aggressive breast cancer diagnoses.

In support of “early detection, better treatment,” the University of Nebraska Medical Center conducted a study that shows a decrease in U.S. lung cancer deaths, citing earlier diagnosis.

The yearlong study conducted by a lung cancer expert at UNMC highlights the need for increased, and regular, screenings. UNMC’s Apar Ganti, MD, said the results were significant and suggest that as lung cancer is diagnosed at earlier stages, survival increases.

Dr. Ganti also found the use of screenings to detect early lung cancer woefully underused. He said he hopes information from the study will encourage more lung cancer screening.

The DHHS backs that information up, stating, “cancer screenings have the potential to decrease the burden of cancer.” Screening tests look for cancer in people who don’t have symptoms.

DHHS News Release: COVID-19 Vs. Cancer Screenings

Posted by Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services on Friday, October 22, 2021

According to the American Association for Cancer Research screening for cancer is a proven and recommended approach to prevent deaths from cancer; screening can locate precursor lesions and/or cancer at early stages when it is potentially curable.

Nebraska’s DHHS reports that based on pre-COVID-19 projections, further delays in cancer screenings will cause increased cancer rates overall and will have a variety of impacts across different populations. They urge everyone to get caught up with annual cancer screenings.

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