More evidence that the pandemic delayed cancer diagnoses

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By Robert Preidt
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Dec. 6, 2021 (HealthDay News) — New research offers new evidence that COVID-19 pandemic delays in cancer diagnoses in the United States, increasing patients’ risk of poor outcomes.

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

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 interruption in 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 health care organizations anticipate how far behind they have fallen in their efforts to diagnose new cancers,” he added. “It will also help them allocate the necessary resources and time to re-engage with patients.”

The study, published online Dec. 6 in the journal Cancerfound that in 2020 there were 45% fewer colonoscopies to detect colon cancer; 29% less biopsies detect prostate cancer; 10% fewer CT scans of the chest to screen for lung cancer; and 21% fewer cystoscopies to detect bladder cancercompared to the annual averages from 2018 to 2019.

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

Overall, new cancer diagnoses fell between 13 percent and 23 percent 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 in order to recover from the delay caused by the pandemic.

More information

The US National Cancer Institute has more about diagnosing cancer.

FOUNTAIN: Cancerpress release, December 6, 2021

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