Cancer doesn’t wait, and neither should you,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urged patients in its new cancer screening adherence campaign. The COVID-19 pandemic has created barriers to regular health visits, screenings, and treatment for individuals everywhere, and providers and organizations alike are seeking solutions.

In a February 2022 blog post, CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control Director Lisa Richardson, MD, MPH, explained that finding cancer early can improve your chances of living longer. Richardson spoke with April Donaldson, a cancer survivor who was diagnosed with and treated for breast cancer during the pandemic. Donaldson said her diagnosis came after a cancer screening and emphasized the importance of maintaining cancer screening appointments, even during the chaos of COVID-19.

“As an oncologist, I know firsthand that cancer doesn’t wait,” Richardson said. “It doesn’t wait for a pandemic to settle down. It doesn’t wait until you get better health insurance. It doesn’t wait until you get your child through college.”

Richardson reported that about 41% of U.S. adults delayed or avoided medical care during the pandemic, and with regard to cancer screenings, testing for breast, colorectal, and cervical cancer dropped more than 80%.

“Experts predict that 10,000 more people will die from breast and colorectal cancer alone because of screening delays,” Richardson said.

“It really felt like trying to battle two monsters at the same time, and I couldn’t choose to ignore one while I fought the other one,” Donaldson said. “When I was diagnosed, I knew I had to do everything I could so that I would be there for my family in the future in spite of being afraid of going through treatment during the pandemic.”

As part of their commitment to quality cancer care, nurses can educate patients about the importance of cancer screening, early detection, and prevention, even during a public health emergency. Advocate for access for all of your patients, and support campaigns and organizations like CDC that are doing the same.

“Please stay on track with your treatments or schedule your cancer screenings today,” Richardson urged. “It may not be fun, but the payoff is worth it.”