Nearly 10 Million Cancer Screenings Missed During Pandemic

By Robert Preidt
HealthDay reporter

WEDNESDAY, May 5, 2021 (HealthDay News) – Nearly 10 million cancer screens were missed in the United States during the coronavirus pandemic, researchers report.

Researchers analyzed data on three types of cancer for which early screenings are most beneficial – breast, colon and prostate – and found that 9.4 million screenings for these cancers had not taken place in the United States. due to COVID-19.

Screenings for all three types of cancer have dropped sharply. For example, there was a 90% drop in breast cancer screenings in April 2020, according to the study published online April 29 in JAMA Oncology.

“As a physician, I was not surprised to see that screenings had declined, but this study measures by how much,” said study author Dr. Ronald Chen, associate director of equity in Health at the University of Kansas Cancer Center. “This study clearly shows that this is a major public health problem.”

Routine screening can detect cancer at an early stage, when it is most curable. Millions of people missing cancer screening due to the COVID-19 pandemic will mean a delay in cancer detection for some, meaning it will be more advanced when diagnosed.

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“Unfortunately, by causing appointment cancellations and cancer screenings, COVID will indirectly cause an increase in cancer deaths – another negative consequence of COVID that has yet to receive much public attention,” he said. Chen said in a college press release.

It is essential that the public and health care providers understand the urgency of getting cancer screenings back on track, he said.

“There must be a concerted public health education campaign across the country to reinforce the importance of cancer screening,” Chen said. “Hospitals across the country should also make efforts to contact patients to postpone canceled screening tests, to minimize the delay in cancer screening and diagnoses due to missed tests.

The study also found that telehealth visits, which were first used extensively during the pandemic, were associated with better screening rates.

“Telehealth has a measurable positive effect on whether patients are screened for cancer,” Chen said. “This study also justifies continued use of telehealth even after the pandemic.”

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More information

There is more on cancer screening at the US National Cancer Institute.

SOURCE: University of Kansas Cancer Center, press release, April 30, 2021

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