Certain Cancers Will Likely Rise Exponentially Because of COVID-19 Screening Delays, Study Predicts
Delays in cancer screening during the COVID-19 pandemic will likely cause a significant increase in cancer cases that could have been caught earlier with screening. These cases may now be diagnosed at later stages, placing an increased burden on an already-strained health-care system, according to a new research article published in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.1
“While the medical system as a whole experienced an incredible burden from the COVID-19 pandemic, now we’re going to see a much different burden present itself due to delays in cancer screening,” said senior author Teviah E. Sachs, MD, MPH, FACS, Associate Professor of Surgery at Boston University Chobanian and Avedisian School of Medicine and Chief of the Section of Surgical Oncology at Boston Medical Center. “With this study, we sought to illustrate with data how we could forecast these likely future trends related to screenable cancer incidence.”
Teviah E. Sachs, MD, MPH, FACS
For the study, researchers at Boston University developed a predictive statistical model to quantify missed diagnoses of lung, breast, and colorectal cancers by comparing observed cancer rates in 2020 with pre–COVID-19 pandemic cancer rates (2010–2019). To quantify potential missed diagnoses, the team’s statistical model incorporated data from the National Cancer Database (NCDB). To adjust for cancer cases not included in the NCDB, researchers standardized the data to the U.S. population using Census data.
The team analyzed data from cases of 1,707,395 lung, 2,200,505 breast, and 1,066,138 colorectal cancers. Significant differences between the observed cancer rates in 2020 compared with the historical data from 2010 to 2019 were noted for all three types of cancer: colorectal cancer: observed incidence decreased by 18.6%; lung cancer: observed incidence decreased by 18.1%; and breast cancer: observed incidence decreased by 14.6%.
DISCLOSURE: For full disclosures of the study authors, visit journals.lww.com.
1. Romatoski K, Chung SH, Kenzik K, et al: Delay and disparity in observed vs predicted incidence rates of screenable cancer during the COVID-19 pandemic. J Am Coll Surg. May 25, 2023 (early release online).