National Cancer Institute Predicts 10,000 Preventable Deaths Over Next Decade

Decline in screenings expected to lead to colon, breast cancer deaths

(Joplin, MO) – The U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI) announced on April 1, 2021 that it is expecting the country to see 10,000 excess deaths from colon and breast cancer alone in the next 10 years. The primary driver of this is the pause in crucial health screenings as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In theory, fewer visits for cancer treatment might sound like a good thing. But we know that patients making fewer visits doesn’t mean there is less cancer, just less being diagnosed. This announcement from the NCI makes that clear.

“The one thing everyone knows about cancer treatment is that earlier detection almost always means better outcomes,” said Whit Sanders, executive director of cancer services for Mercy Hospital Joplin. “It is absolutely critical that patients, particularly those who are at high risk for developing cancer, invest in their health care and get their regular screenings. Doing that could absolutely save many thousands of lives.”

Of course, it’s possible that the decline in screenings could result in an even larger number of preventable deaths than National Cancer Institute predicts, because it accounts only for breast and colon cancers. There are many other forms of cancer that could potentially be going undetected as well.

“We want to make sure that every patient has the assurance that Mercy is doing everything possible to make it safe to seek care with us,” said Donna O’Keefe, patient safety lead at Mercy Joplin. “With our masking, distancing and other precautions in place, it is significantly more dangerous for patients to put off health care such as screenings and checkups than it is to visit Mercy facilities for the care they need.”

Mercy Joplin’s Dr. Samir Dalia, an oncologist, will be available for media interviews on this topic beginning at 1:30 pm on Friday, April 2, 2021.

About Mercy:

Mercy, named one of the top five large U.S. health systems for four consecutive years by IBM Watson Health, serves millions annually. Mercy is one of the nation’s most highly integrated, multi-state health care systems, including more than 40 acute care, managed and specialty (heart, children’s, orthopedic and rehab) hospitals, convenient urgent care locations, imaging centers and pharmacies. Mercy has 900 physician practices and outpatient facilities, more than 4,000 Mercy Clinic physicians and advanced practitioners and 40,000-plus co-workers serving patients and families across Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. Mercy also has clinics, outpatient services and outreach ministries in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. In addition, Mercy’s IT division, Mercy Technology Services, and Mercy Virtual commercially serve providers and patients from coast to coast.

Jordan Larimore, Senior Media Relations & Communications
Mercy Hospital Joplin

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