Dr Debra Patt: The True Impact of the Pandemic on Cancer Screenings, Diagnoses Is Not Yet Known


Debra Patt, MD, PhD, MBA, executive vice president of Texas Oncology, addresses how the pandemic may have influenced cancer screening and diagnosis rates.

Anecdotally, we are starting to see later-stage cancer diagnoses, but right now it’s hard to quantify the true extent. It may take years to fully comprehend, or appreciate, how pandemic-related screening delays led to later-stage diagnoses, noted Debra Patt, MD, PhD, MBA, executive vice president of Texas Oncology,


Have pandemic-related screening drop-offs resulted in later-stage diagnoses?

I am seeing that cancers are being diagnosed at a later stage. I would say it’s anecdotal at this point, because I think that some of these changes are going to take years to really see the long-term effects. But we are already seeing it. I have many patients that presented late stage and tell me that they delayed screening because of the pandemic, and then they have a late-stage cancer. And I will say that we worked with the Community Oncology Alliance to write up some of these that were published in The Washington Post.

When can we expect to see some hard data that this is real?

I’m not sure who’s looking at the different stages at diagnosis, because it’s hard to quantify that. I think that very soon you’ll continue to see cancer reporting. You know, we have a certain estimated number of cancers every year. When we see decreases in that estimated number of cancer, we’ll know that those cancers remain undiagnosed. I think somewhat we’ll first see, the stage migration, or cancers presenting at a later stage. I think this is something that will probably take years to really, truly appreciate.