News Release

[VIDEO] Ask a U of M Expert: Lessons from the pandemic for cancer screening and care

Dr. Yee
Part of the new “Ask a U of M Expert” video talks, Dr. Yee answered questions from journalists about cancer and applied lessons-learned from the pandemic.

For those with cancer, the pandemic has posed unique risks and has prompted providers to pursue innovation in the field. At the same time, the 30th anniversary of the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota, continues to pursue the ‘war on cancer’ through a multi-approach strategy to prevent or cure these complex diseases.

Masonic Cancer Center Director Douglas Yee, who is also an M Health Fairview oncologist, discusses what the medical community has learned from the pandemic that can be applied to cancer research and care.

Video credit to the University of Minnesota.

60 seconds — What challenges did the pandemic create for health care workers treating cancer patients?
Dr. Yee
: At the beginning of the pandemic, there was concern about adequate PPE. Thus, any “nonessential” visits were postponed, this included screening for cancer — mammography and colonoscopy for example. Cancer screening visits dropped by nearly 90% for the first four months of the pandemic. Predictive modeling from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) has estimated that even this brief delay in screening will result in 10,000 excess deaths over the next decade. Further concerns about PPE also limited visits for patients actively being treated for cancer and virtual visits began. Further, visitors were not allowed to accompany patients to their visits. A cancer visit is a very stressful time for patients and support from family members is important.

Video credit to the University of Minnesota.

42 seconds — What have we learned from the pandemic about how to approach cancer health care?
Dr. Yee
: On the positive side, patient contact is easier and for some patients, having the ability to have a video call was reassuring — the patient could remain in contact with us but feel protected from COVID-19 exposure. On the negative side, some patients really preferred to be seen in person and there were some instances where things might have been noticed with a physical exam. But overall, I think there will be long-term benefits for our adaptations during COVID-19, such as having virtual access and virtual second opinions, could broaden health care. Of course, there are patients who have limited access to smart devices or broadband access and we will have to be careful to not make health care more difficult for these patients. There are also some important aspects of cancer care (e.g., surgery and radiation) that cannot be delivered in a virtual fashion.

Video credit to the University of Minnesota.

105 seconds — Are there either health care or clinical research practices learned from the past year the Masonic Cancer Center is currently implementing?
Dr. Yee
: We have learned how to apply virtual visits to clinical research. For example, some patients were enrolled in some studies without ever having to come to the clinic — virtual consent, follow-up and monitoring are now all possible. I hope that as we go forward, we will learn how to optimize in person and virtual visits for both clinical care and research.

Dr. Douglas Yee, director of Masonic Cancer Center and a professor at the University of Minnesota Medical School, is an expert in breast cancer research and treatment. His research is particularly focused on understanding the contribution of growth factor regulation of breast cancer. 

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Please contact Kat Dodge at kdodge@umn.edu for video files for media use.

About “Ask a U of M Expert”
“Ask a U of M Expert” is a recorded video conversation between a University expert and journalists on current and trending topics. All media are welcome to republish this content. If you would like to schedule an interview with the faculty member or be invited in future “Ask a U of M Expert,” please contact University Public Relations at unews@umn.edu.

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University Public Relations
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Wed, 05/05/2021 - 11:32
[VIDEO] Ask a U of M Expert: Lessons from the pandemic for cancer screening and care
https://twin-cities.umn.edu/news-events/video-ask-u-m-expert-lessons-pandemic-cancer-screening-and-care
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities