A Message from the HICCC: Don’t Delay Cancer Screenings or Treatment

January 29, 2021

The Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center (HICCC) has joined forces with the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), the American Cancer Society (ACS), and 76 other leading cancer organizations across the country to encourage patients to resume their cancer treatment and to schedule their cancer screenings during the COVID-19 pandemic. The ongoing pandemic should not place a potential cancer diagnosis on the back burner.

Male and female doctor look at a chart

With this letter to the public, the HICCC and other leading institutions  highlight the importance and urgency of continuing care and scheduling cancer screenings. Recent studies found the number of cervical, colorectal, breast, prostate, and lung cancer screening tests dropped due to concerns over COVID-19, and a significant decrease in cancer diagnoses and delays in active treatment.  The National Cancer Institute (NCI) predicts almost 10,000 excess deaths in the U.S. from breast and colorectal cancer alone over the next decade as a result of delays in screening and treatment during this time.

“Keeping up with your regular cancer screenings and other preventive healthcare is important now more than ever,” says Anil Rustgi, MD, director of the HICCC and interim executive vice president and dean of the Faculties of Health Sciences and Medicine at Columbia University Irving Medical Center. “Cancer centers across the country, including ours, want to let people know that cancer care is essential care.”

At the HICCC, oncologists and nurses have continued to see and treat patients, either via tele-health or in person. Since the height of the pandemic in New York City in March 2020, the HICCC has implemented important safety measures responsible for keeping the Herbert Irving Pavilion (HIP)—where the bulk of cancer patients are seen—a COVID-19 secure zone.

“Since last spring, we’ve learned a lot about cancer and COVID-19. We are finding every means possible to treat our patients safely,” says Gary Schwartz, MD, deputy director of the HICCC and division chief of Hematology/Oncology. “We’re telling our patients not to be afraid to come to the hospital for their treatments. We have created an absolutely safe environment here.”

To learn more about how the HICCC has changed some practices for patient safety, please visit our page on cancer care during COVID-19. To make an appointment—a virtual visit or in-person--go to Make an Appointment.