The Crucial Need for Cancer Treatment and Screening During COVID-19

Jeffrey Drebin

Dr. Jeffrey Drebin

Cancer care is essential care and screenings and treatments can’t wait. That was the message that MSK’s Chair of the Department of Surgery, Jeffrey Drebin, MD, PhD, shared during a recent interview with Spectrum News NY1.  Appearing via Skype with Roma Torre on the New York metro station, Dr. Drebin shared why it’s so important for people to keep up with their routine screenings and not put off cancer treatment or surgery.    

Pointing out that the death rate from all types of cancer over the last 40 years has gone from roughly 50% to about 30% today, Dr. Drebin stressed that early diagnosis is the main reason for this decline.  He cautioned that 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.  

“Our treatments are more effective when we find cancer early,” said Dr. Drebin. “When people don’t get the appropriate screening, they will be found later and their tumors will be less likely to be curable.”

Dr. Drebin also addressed the precautions put in place at MSK to make it safe for patients to come in for their appointments and procedures, including routine testing of patients and staff, social distancing measures, staggering appointments and limiting visitors.  Telemedicine appointments are also available when appropriate for both initial and follow-up visits.  MSK doctors work with patients to determine which appointments can held via telemedicine.

Dr. Drebin emphasized that COVID-19 is still a large concern for the general population, but that shouldn’t mean cancer care takes a back seat.  “The reason to not come in should not be fear of COVID,” stated Dr. Drebin. “COVID is a huge problem and that’s not to diminish or minimize the importance of appropriate screening and management of COVID care.  But cancer care is here every day of the week.”

Watch the full interview here.