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Cancer Appointment Catch-Up Becomes a National Priority

December 7, 2021 • 3:18 pm CST
(Vax Before Cancer)

Restrictions in access to care during the COVID-19 pandemic caused extensive disruptions in cancer treatment, reported a new study published on December 6, 2021, by Wiley online in CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society.

For the study, a team led by Brajesh K. Lal, MD, of the Veterans Affairs (V.A.) Maryland Health Care System and the University of Maryland School of Medicine examined data from more than 9 million U.S. veterans at 1,244 VA medical facilities.

The researchers found that procedures to diagnose cancer were used less frequently in 2020, fewer new diagnoses of cancer, and the deficits varied by geographic location and by cancer type.

The variations in state-level trends may reflect variations in the institutional response to local outbreaks or differences in perceived risk by patients.

Colonoscopies (to detect colorectal cancer) in 2020 decreased by 45% compared with annual averages in 2018 through 2019.

Whereas prostate biopsies (to detect prostate cancer), chest computed tomography scans (to detect lung cancer), and cystoscopies (to detect bladder cancer) decreased by 29%, 10%, and 21%, respectively.

Dr. Lal said in a related press release, "As we enter the COVID-19 recovery phase, we hope that our work will help physicians, hospitals, and health care organizations anticipate the extent to which they have fallen behind in their efforts to diagnose new cancers."

"It will also help them allocate requisite resources and time to re-engage with patients."

'Our results indicate that an urgent, informed, and concerted response is needed.'

'Along with providing a blueprint for computing the accumulated deficit within a specific environment, our study provides a tool, a nomogram to guide institutions and health systems to conceptualize the potential increased capacity and time needed to address the unmet needs.'

Although increased cancer-specific deaths have not been demonstrated in the U.S., early reports from New York City found a short-term increase in non-COVID-related mortality during their early pandemic surge.

Author Contact: Rosalia Scalia, MA, Public Affairs Specialist at the VA Maryland Health Care System, at [email protected] or +1 410-605-7464; or Karen Warmkessel, Media Relations Senior Manager.