The thing about an emergency is that when it starts there are no rules. When a family emergency strikes what do we do? We take off work, we book the flight, we don’t worry about the credit card bill, it’s an emergency after all. But a few weeks later, which is where we are now in the Chinese virus crisis, the bills come due. Sadly for many Americans and their families, part of that bill may be an increase in deaths from cancer.
Doctors across the country are growing more and more concerned that cancer screenings are not happening as hospitals dedicate themselves to Covid and that cancer diagnosis numbers have also plummeted. As one doctor in Ohio put it, “Some of our own internal reports are that we’re seeing as much as a 40 percent decline in diagnosis of new cancer. That’s not because cancer was cured. It’s because it’s not being picked up.”
Another doctor in Texas had this to say, “I think all of us are very worried that the cancer population is going to be a casualty of the COVID-19 crisis, that no one anticipated it and because not only are we not able to treat it, every patient right now, but there are patients at home right now that have cancer that don’t know it yet.”
We have known for decades that early detection is absolutely essential to surviving cancer; many of our gains in the fight against the insidious disease are based in our ability to begin treatment early. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1.9 million people will die from cancer in 2020. How in good conscious have we arrived at a point where we are scaling back testing for a condition that will kill far more people than coronavirus?
The answer is that during this crisis, as is often the case with any crisis, bold actions were taken before they were completely thought through. This applies not only to the economic disaster we have created for ourselves, but also for the unanticipated second level medical effects of shutting down so much hospital capacity to make room for coronavirus cases.
The point here is not to cast blame, owing to the deceitful Abbot and Costello act performed by the communist Chinese government and the World Health Organization the United States, indeed the entire West, was woefully under-informed about the actual nature of the virus. Mistakes were made by the administration and governors as they struggled to catch their footing in fighting the virus.
Now, having come five or six weeks into this we can no longer ignore the potentially deadly unintended consequences of the dramatic approach of the past two months. With hospital capacity now so flush that employees are being laid off, it is time to reconsider how we are using these valuable resources.
The longer we go without adequate cancer screenings, the more lives we will lose in our attempt to save other lives. We have to stop treating this like an emergency situation in which consequences be damned, and start taking a more measured, practical approach that protects the lives of all Americans.