More evidence that pandemic delayed cancer diagnosis

By Robert Preidt
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, DECEMBER 6, 2021 (HealthDay News) — New research provides new evidence that the COVID-19 pandemic delayed cancer diagnosis in the United States, increasing patients’ risk of poor outcomes.

For the study, researchers analyzed data from more than 9 million patients in more than 1,200 Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facilities.

Procedures to diagnose cancer were used less frequently and there were fewer new cancer diagnoses in 2020 than in the previous two years. From 2018 to 2020, 3.9 million diagnostic procedures were performed and nearly 252,000 new cancers were diagnosed.

Study author Dr. Brajesh Lal, of the VA Maryland Health Care System, said the disruption of non-emergency care during the peak of the pandemic was “intentional and necessary.”

“As we enter the recovery phase, we hope our work will help doctors, hospitals and healthcare organizations anticipate the extent to which they have fallen behind in their efforts to diagnose new cancers,” he added. “It will also help them allocate the necessary resources and time to reconnect with patients.”

The study, published online Dec. 6 in the journal Cancer, found that by 2020 there were 45% fewer colonoscopies to detect colon cancer; 29% fewer biopsies to detect prostate cancer; 10% fewer chest CT scans to detect lung cancer; and 21% fewer cystoscopies to detect bladder cancer, compared to annual averages in 2018 to 2019.

In 29% of states, the number of colonoscopies fell by more than half compared to previous years, the study authors noted in a journal press release.

Overall, new cancer diagnoses fell between 13% and 23% in 2020, depending on the type of cancer, the findings showed.

As part of the study, the researchers created a chart to help institutions, health systems and states determine the time and resources needed to increase cancer diagnostic procedures to make up for the backlog caused by the pandemic. .

More information

The US National Cancer Institute has more about cancer diagnosis.

SOURCE: Cancer, press release, December 6, 2021

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