The pandemic may have you feeling reluctant to seek medical treatment. But when it comes to cancer care, even a short delay in treatment may lead to deadly outcomes, according to a review of 34 studies published online Nov. 4, 2020, by BMJ. Researchers evaluated treatment delay and survival in more than a million people who had cancer of the bladder, breast, colon, rectum, lung, cervix, or head and neck. Each four-week delay in treatment — whether surgery, radiation therapy, or medication (such as chemotherapy or immunotherapy) — was associated with an increase of 6% to 8% in the likelihood of dying during the study period. Scientists say delays of up to eight weeks and 12 weeks further increased the risk of death. For example, in women who delayed breast cancer surgery by eight weeks, there was a 17% increased death risk; women who delayed surgery by 12 weeks had a 26% increase. Keep in mind, there are lots of unavoidable reasons why cancer treatment might be delayed, such as not being strong enough to undergo procedures or scheduling issues at a treatment center. But if there isn't a good reason to delay, it's best to get treatment as soon as possible.
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