The researchers analyzed data on three types of cancer for which initial screenings are most beneficial (breast, colon, and prostate) and found that 9.4 million screenings for these cancers did not occur in the United States due to COVID-19.
Projections for all three types of cancer fell sharply. For example, there was a 90% decline in breast cancer testing in April 2020, according to the study published online on April 29 in Oncology JAMA.
“As a doctor, I wasn’t surprised to see that projections had decreased, but this study measures how much,” said the author, Ronald Chen, study author, associate director of health equity at the Cancer Center. the University of Kansas. “This study makes it clear that this is a major public health issue.”
Routine screening helps detect cancer at an early stage when it is more curable. Millions of people who do not have cancer tests due to the COVID-19 pandemic will mean delayed cancer screening for some, meaning it will be more advanced when diagnosed.
“Unfortunately, by causing cancellations of appointments and cancer testing, COVID will indirectly lead to an increase in cancer deaths, another negative consequence of COVID that has not yet received much public attention,” Chen said in a press release. of the university.
It was crucial that the public and healthcare providers understood the urgency of re-launching cancer testing, he emphasized.
“There needs to be a concerted public health education campaign across the country to reinforce the importance of cancer screening,” Chen said. “Hospitals across the country must also make efforts to contact patients to reschedule canceled screening tests, in order to minimize delayed diagnosis and cancer diagnosis of lost tests.”
The study also found this telesalut visits, which were widely used for the first time during the pandemic, were associated with better detection rates.
“Telehealth has a measurable positive effect on whether patients receive cancer testing,” Chen said. “This study also justifies continued use of telehealth even after the pandemic.”
There is more information on cancer screening at US National Cancer Institute.
SOURCE: University of Kansas Cancer Center, press release, April 30, 2021