Delayed diagnoses of lung, breast, and colorectal cancers will likely be on the rise as a direct consequence of missed cancer screenings during the COVID-19 pandemic, write researchers in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.
Researchers at Boston University created a predictive statistical model to quantify missed diagnoses of lung, breast, and colorectal cancers by comparing observed cancer rates in 2020 with pre-pandemic cancer rates in the previous decade (2010-2019).
"These are all cancers that have very profound incidences in our patient population across the U.S. They are much better managed and often curable when found early, and devastating when caught late," said senior author Teviah E. Sachs, MD, MPH, an associate professor of surgery at Boston University in a press release from the American College of Surgeons, which publishes the journal. "In addition, these are all screening tests that were likely put off during COVID-19 because they require patients to come into the hospital setting."
These are all cancers that have very profound incidences in our patient population across the U.S.
Sachs and his colleagues used the National Cancer Database to track the observed incidence of the three cancer types in 2020.
The observed 2020 incidence was 66.888, 152.059, and 36.522 per 100,000 compared with predicted 2020 incidence of 81.650, 178.124, and 44.837 per 100,000, for lung, breast, and colorectal cancer, respectively. The observed incidence for colorectal cancer decreased by 18.6%, by 18.1% for lung cancer, and by 14.6% for breast cancer.
For breast and lung cancer, the discrepancies were seen mostly in adults ages 65 and older, and for those under 65 for colorectal cancer.
"In addition to the human toll, this will further burden the healthcare system and increase future healthcare costs," the authors concluded. "It is imperative that providers empower patients to schedule cancer screenings to flatten this pending oncological wave."