A consortium of 17 cancer centers in the United States, including the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), have come together to better understand the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic in delaying cancer detection, care, and prevention. The cancer centers are working together with the National Cancer Institute (NCI) on the impact of the pandemic on the continuum of cancer care from prevention to survivorship. This work will further examine whether differences in demographics impact cancer prevention and control, cancer management, and survivorship during the pandemic.
In addition to the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB, participating cancer centers are The Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute (Michigan), The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center (Iowa), University of Colorado Cancer Center, Stephenson Cancer Center (Oklahoma), University of California Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, Oregon Health & Science University-Knight Cancer Institute, Fred Hutchinson/University of Washington Cancer Consortium, University of Virginia Cancer Center, Huntsman Cancer Institute (Utah), Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (Tennessee), Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center (Florida), Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center/Washington University School of Medicine (Missouri), Markey Cancer Center (Kentucky), The University of Kansas Cancer Center, and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.
Losing Ground During the Pandemic
As the coordinating site, the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB is working on this massive collaboration as a direct response to sobering forecasts from the NCI about cancer care during the COVID-19 pandemic. Officials have warned that the pandemic may have prevented some patients from undergoing much-needed screenings and hindered access to procedures that could result in late-stage diagnosis and cancer death. Furthermore, delaying cancer screenings, clinical trials, and testing during the pandemic could roll back significant gains made in recent years in reducing cancer deaths.
“It is critical to understand the impact of the pandemic on healthy behaviors that are associated with cancer and cancer management (eg, physical activity, tobacco use), so national, state, and local efforts can be adapted to meet the needs of Americans,” said Isabel Scarinci, PhD, MPH, Professor in the UAB Division of Preventive Medicine and the O’Neal Cancer Center’s senior advisor for Globalization and Cancer. “By coming together, these cancer centers will be able to develop and implement cancer prevention and control strategies to combat the ill effects of the pandemic, particularly among medically underserved populations, where the pandemic may have exacerbated their unmet health needs.”
Isabel Scarinci, PhD, MPH
Collectively, the cancer centers will conduct surveys among healthy volunteers and cancer survivors nationwide about their health and well-being during the pandemic, with a focus on work and employment, housing/home life, social activities, emotional well-being, physical health, and behavior related to COVID-19 prevention, as well as behaviors such as physical activity and tobacco use, which have links to cancer. By complying with current pandemic restrictions, individuals will be contacted by phone, text, and social media.