New study shows big drop in cancer screenings among AAPI during pandemic

Experts are concerned it could lead to a higher cancer death rate.
Published: Jun. 3, 2022 at 9:46 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 3, 2022 at 10:28 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A new study shows that the COVID pandemic may have major implications for cancer rates in Hawaii, especially among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Those groups make up about half of Hawaii’s population. They’re also the ones who’ve stayed away from cancer screenings, according to a new report published Friday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“The CDC actually calls and asks, ‘Did you get your screening done in the last year?’ And we saw that within the AAPI population that those who reported having a mammogram went down by about 27 percent,” said Dr. Arif Kamal, the Chief Patient Officer for the American Cancer Society.

The organization is especially concerned about that drop. The research shows that in 2018, about two-thirds of Asian American and Pacific Islander women had been screened for breast cancer.

“After the pandemic started, that went to under half, to about 46 percent, which from our data is the most dramatic decrease in cancer screening in any population specifically in the United States. And that’s pretty alarming,” said Kamal.

Especially for a state like Hawaii, with its large proportion of Asians and Pacific Islanders.

When the pandemic first started, many screenings were canceled when health systems cut down on elective procedures, and patients backed out because of COVID concerns.

“Mammograms and colonoscopies require going to a health system and having a procedure done,” said Kamal. “I think that what it starts to highlight is really a hesitation, which I think during COVID makes perfect sense,” said Kamal.

But now, healthcare providers have new testing and masking rules to encourage people to catch up on cancer screenings. Because if they don’t?

“That means potentially down the road, more cancers that are harder to cure and potentially more deaths from cancer, which is what we want to avoid.”

There are no firm numbers on that yet, but early estimates say the cancer mortality rate could increase up to 10%.

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