FRIDAY, June 3, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Millions of U.S. women have missed screenings for breast, cervical and colon cancer due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new study.
It found that in 2020, compared to 2018, the number of women who reported having had breast cancer screening in the past year decreased by 2.13 million (6%). The number of women who reported having had cervical cancer screening in the past year has decreased by 4.47 million (11%).
During the same period, colonoscopies for colorectal cancer detection decreased by 16% in both men and women.
“The COVID-19 pandemic had an immediate impact in March and April 2020, with screenings initially falling by almost 80%,” said senior author Dr. Ahmedin Jemal, a senior vice president of the American Cancer Society.
“Many people caught up on showings later in 2020, but overall the COVID-19 pandemic has kept showings low throughout the year,” he said in a society press release. “As we continue to evolve, getting people back into their doctor’s offices to be evaluated is critical.”
The study found that Hispanic and lower-income women had larger declines in breast and cervical cancer screening. Asian/Pacific Islander women saw a 27% decline in breast cancer screening in the past year, the largest of any race. Meanwhile, Hispanic women saw a 17% drop in cervical cancer screening in the past year.
The declines were almost double for people with less than a high school degree compared to college graduates. Rates among those without a high school diploma fell by 11% for breast cancer screening and 17.7% for cervical cancer screening, compared with 6.1% and 9.5% for college graduates, respectively.
While colonoscopy screening for colon cancer fell in both women and men, stool testing increased by 7%. Researchers said this suggests home testing can help maintain screening rates during major health care disruptions.
The study, led by the American Cancer Society, was published on June 3 JAMA network open.
“The impact of these drops on stage at diagnosis and survival is not yet known, but we need to monitor this closely,” Jemal said. “It is imperative that we understand the impact of lower screening rates on cancer outcomes in people of color and those of lower socioeconomic status, and also work to improve access to health care and cancer screening for all.”
The US National Cancer Institute has more on screening.
SOURCE: American Cancer Society, press release, June 3, 2022