Significant declines in cancer diagnoses during first year of COVID-19 pandemic
medwireNews: The number of new cancer diagnoses during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic was lower than in the prepandemic period, report US researchers.
These findings follow on from an earlier study by the same team showing that new diagnoses of six tumor types in the USA almost halved during the first 6 weeks of the pandemic.
In the current analysis, Harvey Kaufman and colleagues from Quest Diagnostics in Secaucus, New Jersey, used testing data from the company on 799,496 patients to demonstrate that the average monthly number of new diagnoses of eight tumor types (breast, cervical, colorectal, esophageal, gastric, lung, pancreatic, and prostate) fell by 29.8% in the first pandemic period of March–May 2020 relative to the prepandemic period of January 2019–February 2020.
The mean monthly new diagnoses also decreased during the second (June–October 2020) and third (November 2020–March 2021) pandemic periods, but the magnitude of declines was smaller, at 9.6% and 19.1%, respectively, compared with before the pandemic.
Analysis by individual tumor types showed significant falls for all cancers during the first and third pandemic periods, whereas in the second period only the decline in prostate cancer diagnoses reached statistical significance.
“Because the number of newly identified patients with cancer in the third pandemic period did not exceed the prepandemic value, as would be expected if patients with delayed care returned for care, many cancers may remain undiagnosed,” write Kaufman et al in a research letter to JAMA Network Open.
They continue: “The impact of delayed diagnosis may vary with the type of cancer and the extent of delay but could lead to presentation at more advanced stages, with potentially poorer clinical outcomes.
“Our findings call for planning to address the consequences of delayed diagnoses, including strengthened clinical telehealth offerings supporting patient-clinician interactions.”
medwireNews is an independent medical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Ltd. © 2021 Springer Healthcare Ltd, part of the Springer Nature Group
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