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Organizations Warn Cancer Doesn't Stop for Covid-19 and Neither Should You

APRN Heidi Nielson With Male Patient

Huntsman Cancer Institute is part of nationwide, collaborative effort to resume appropriate cancer screening and treatment to prevent deaths.

Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) at the University of Utah (U of U) is teaming up with the National Comprehensive Cancer Network® (NCCN), the American Cancer Society (ACS), and other leading organizations across the country to endorse resuming cancer screening and treatment during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The coalition of 76 organizations released an open letter reminding the public that cancer still poses a major threat to people’s health. Acting as soon as is safely possible can lead to much better outcomes in the future. The letter examines distressing trends showing a significant drop in cancer screening and treatment compared to prior years. This side effect of the pandemic could lead to a staggering number of preventable cancer deaths over the next 10 years and beyond. Oncology experts agree that people should not delay any necessary prevention or care.

"Huntsman Cancer Institute is proud to join our peers nationwide in an effort to raise awareness and endorse this joint message," says Thomas K. Varghese, MD, HCI executive medical director and professor of surgery at U of U Health. "Cancer is the second-leading cause of death in Utah and remains a priority, even during the pandemic. Our message to all Utahns is simple: cancer screening saves lives. We urge all to take action and schedule or reschedule health and cancer screenings, including primary care appointments, mammograms, colonoscopies, and Pap tests. Encourage your loved ones as well, without delay."

"It is of the utmost importance that critical cancer screenings resume as soon as safely possible," says William G. Cance, MD, chief medical and scientific officer of the ACS. "Over the past decade, we have seen overall cancer mortality rates drop dramatically. This is in large part due to screening’s ability to catch cancers before they spread—when the chances of good outcomes are most likely. We have come too far to allow long breaks in vital screening to slow down our progress in saving lives."

"Far too many cancers are being left to grow unchecked. Postponing cancer care will add tragedy on top of tragedy" says Robert W. Carlson, MD, CEO of the NCCN. "When the pandemic first hit the United States, a short delay in care was an appropriate choice for many cancer types. However, the balance of risk has shifted significantly. We now have two vaccines being distributed around the world. We also know much more about how to treat and prevent COVID-19. Cancer centers are taking multiple measures to protect patients and staff from COVID-19 and transmission within cancer centers is quite unusual."

The use of evidence-based precautions against COVID-19 should reassure patients against fears of infection during necessary medical care. Leading oncology experts are now asking everyone, in coordination with their health care provider, to resume preventive and prescribed care and contact their doctor right away about any new symptoms or concerns.

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About the National Comprehensive Cancer Network

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network® (NCCN) is a not-for-profit alliance of leading cancer centers devoted to patient care, research, and education. NCCN is dedicated to improving and facilitating quality, effective, efficient, and accessible cancer care so patients can live better lives. Visit for more information on the NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines®) and other initiatives. Follow NCCN on Facebook @NCCNorg, Instagram @NCCNorg and Twitter @NCCN.

About the American Cancer Society

The American Cancer Society is a global grassroots force of 1.5 million volunteers dedicated to saving lives, celebrating lives, and leading the fight for a world without cancer. From breakthrough research, to free lodging near treatment, a 24/7/365 live helpline, free rides to treatment, and convening powerful activists to create awareness and impact, the Society is the only organization attacking cancer from every angle. For more information go to

Media Contact

Heather Simonsen
Public Affairs Senior Manager
Huntsman Cancer Institute
801 581-3194

About Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah

Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah is the National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center for Utah, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, and Wyoming. With a legacy of innovative cancer research, groundbreaking discoveries, and world-class patient care, we are transforming the way cancer is understood, prevented, diagnosed, treated, and survived. Huntsman Cancer Institute focuses on delivering the highest standard of care and the most advanced treatments, ensuring world-class cancer care is available to all communities in the area we serve. We have more than 300 open clinical trials and 250 research teams studying cancer at any given time. More genes for inherited cancers have been discovered at Huntsman Cancer Institute than at any other cancer center. Our scientists are world-renowned for understanding how cancer begins and using that knowledge to develop innovative approaches to treat each patient’s unique disease. Huntsman Cancer Institute was founded by Jon M. and Karen Huntsman.

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