Cancer Screenings Plunged Early in Pandemic
Source: Sansum Clinic
New research published in JAMA Oncology confirms that the COVID-19 pandemic caused sharp declines nationwide in spring 2020 screenings for breast cancer, prostate cancer and colorectal cancer, a data trend that is also mirrored locally at Sansum Clinic.
Looking at single-payer administrative data and enrollment information for approximately 60 million people covered by Medicare and commercial health plans, the JAMA study’s researchers found that between March and May of 2020, rates for breast, colorectal and prostate screenings greatly decreased, with the biggest decline in April (breast, −90.8%; colorectal, −79.3%; prostate, −63.4%.) That’s more than 9 million fewer screenings than the previous year.
“These screenings are critical to the detection of cancer at an early stage, when it is more treatable and most curable,” commented Medical Oncologist Fred Kass, MD, Ridley-Tree Cancer Center’s Medical Director.
The researchers noted that the larger deficit for breast and colorectal cancer could be due to those types of screenings being procedure-based, as opposed to the lab tests used to screen for prostate cancer. Numbers did eventually rebound, but did so more gradually in the western United States.
During this same time period, Sansum Clinic experienced a 93% drop in the number of colon cancer screenings and a 92% drop in the number of breast cancer screenings. Within six months, these screening rates did return to baseline.
To combat this deficit here in Santa Barbara, Dr. Kass created a cancer prevention public service announcement to encourage screenings in the fall of 2020. Kass agrees with a recommendation from the study’s authors that a dedicated public health campaign to reinforce the importance of cancer screenings could be of great help. Statistics from the National Cancer Institute show that breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed form of the disease in the U.S., followed by prostate and colorectal cancers in third and fourth place respectively, after lung cancer.