By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The pandemic is being blamed for 10 million missed cancer screenings, according to a new report released on Wednesday from the American Association for Cancer Research. This is a first-of-its-kind report detailing the impact of the pandemic on the cancer community, and it’s been huge.

“It was more stressful because of the COVID,” cancer patient Julie Campbell said.

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Campbell, who lives in Vineland, New Jersey, was just recovering from leukemia when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was October 2020 – the height of the pandemic.

“I had to worry about everywhere I went and was I going to get COVID?” Campbell said.

In spite of every precaution, Campbell did get COVID and had to be hospitalized. The virus is especially dangerous for cancer patients.

“We know that populations that were at greatest risk from COVID infection were also the ones that suffered the most,” Jefferson Health Dr. Ana Maria Lopez said.

Campbell’s oncologist, Dr. Ana Maria Lopez with Jefferson Health, says the pandemic has been tough on cancer patients and she’s worried about the future.

“There were 10 million screenings missed,” Dr. Lopez said.

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New research from the American Association for Cancer Research found that astounding number of missed cancer checks from January to July of 2020.

“We want to find the disease at the earliest possible moment because that’s when it’s potentially curable,” Dr. Lopez said.

But that didn’t happen. The new research says there was an 11% increase in patients being diagnosed with more advanced inoperable cancers in 2020.

“So that’s going to have its impact,” Dr. Lopez said.

The AACR report also found a decline in cancer research. Many facilities were forced to close or cut back.

“There was 80% noticed a drop in productivity,” Dr. Lopez said.

Because of all the pandemic-related setbacks in oncology and the expected increase in patients, the AACR is asking for more congressional support.

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The new report did highlight one positive development from the pandemic – increased use of telemedicine, which doctors say is very helpful, convenient, and safe for patients who can now interact with doctors virtually.

Stephanie Stahl