As the COVID-19 pandemic grew in the United States, health official and medical associations encouraged Americans to delay nonemergency medical care, and in response routine cancer screens including mammograms and colonoscopies dropped precipitously, according to a paper released from electronic medical records vendor Epic and reported in STAT News.
Appointments for screenings for cancers of the cervix, colon, and breast were down between 86% and 94% in March, compared to average volumes in the three years before the first Covid-19 case was confirmed in the U.S., the Epic data show.
The paper provides only a snapshot of the overall picture — the company’s records cover just a fraction of all cancer screenings — but they help reveal the magnitude of the gaps in care resulting from the pandemic. Although there is debate about whether certain preventive cancer screenings actually save lives, many researchers fear that deadly cancers could go undetected if screening appointments that would have normally happened in recent weeks are not soon rescheduled.
Featured image: Weekly cancer screening volume vs. week in year for each kind of cancer screening. Courtesy, Epic Health Research Network.