Avoid COVID-19 to Die From Cancer? the Shadowy Curve of Other Pathologies


The COVID-19 pandemic has made it necessary for health and government authorities to adopt measures that could counter the spread of the virus. Among these, the limitation of medical appointments to urgent cases only and the request to postpone routine medical visits and check-ups. In addition to decreasing the risk of spreading the virus, these measures have allowed hospitals and other health facilities to organize   and equip themselves adequately to assist patients with COVID-19.

A few months later, health experts raise concerns and believe that patients should resume their medical routines in order to prevent other diseases, including cancer, heart disease, and neurological disorders, from going undiagnosed and / or not cured.

As explained by Dr. Pat Basu, director and president of the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, among the undesirable effects of the pandemic there is a possible surge of what is called the “shadow curve”: that is, an increase in cases of non-coronavirus diseases that they are not diagnosed or treated. For this reason it is considered important that patients who have postponed their screenings and follow-up visits resume their appointment as soon as possible or at least get back in touch with their doctor.

If this “hidden” curve remains ignored, the consequence could be a mortality rate due to cancer or other pathologies higher than the mortality rate determined by COVID-19.

Doctors diagnose numerous cases of cancer during screening tests, and many others are accidentally discovered during regular regular checkups. It is estimated that potentially more than 100,000 cases of cancer have not already been diagnosed during these months of the pandemic and this is only considering the lack of screening. 

In fact, if you think that in the United States the number of cancers diagnosed each year is about 1.7-1.8 million, the number of undiagnosed cases due to missed medical appointments in the past 3-4 months is quite high and these tumors will likely not be detected until the next appointment, when the disease may be more severe and more difficult to treat.

Unfortunately, the pandemic continues to be present and will still be present for long periods. Furthermore, most likely, there will be other viruses that pose other threats to the population worldwide. We must therefore accept this new reality and find, as a health system, the best response in terms of preparation and intervention capacity in this emergency, without neglecting other equally important pathologies. You don’t have to be faced with the choice of treating COVID-19 or a cancer: both diseases must receive the same attention. The health system should be able to treat both diseases with the same efficiency and effectiveness. All measures that protect the patient during medical visits and, where possible, telemedicine services must be implemented.