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September 22, 2020

Cancer Centers Join to Address the Impact of COVID-19

Emily Couric Clinical Cancer Center

A consortium of 17 cancer centers in the United States, including UVA Cancer Center, 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 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 UVA, participating cancer centers are O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center (Alabama), 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), UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center (California), Oregon Health & Science University - Knight Cancer Institute (Oregon), Fred Hutchinson/University of Washington Cancer Consortium, 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 University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

UVA Cancer Center 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. 

“By joining 16 other cancer centers, we will have important local and national information that will help us develop and implement effective strategies to mitigate the impact of COVID on cancer prevention, detection and care in our communities,” said Thomas P. Loughran Jr., MD, director of the UVA Cancer Center.

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 that have links to cancer. By complying with current pandemic restrictions, individuals will be contacted by phone, text and social media. 

“We know that the pandemic has changed our preventive behaviors, such as diet and exercise. We know there have been delays in cancer screening. This survey will give us a more detailed understanding of the extent of the problem so that the UVA Cancer Center’s Office of Community Outreach and Engagement can provide programs and support to address the needs of our community,” said Wendy Cohn, PhD, associate director for community outreach and engagement at UVA Cancer Center. “Ultimately, we hope to develop strategies to lessen the impact of this pandemic on cancer prevention, detection and care.”

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