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Number of Newly ID'd U.S. Patients With Cancer Dropped During COVID-19

Decrease of 46.4 percent found for newly identified patients with six common cancer types during pandemic

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TUESDAY, Aug. 4, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- During the COVID-19 pandemic period, there was a significant decline in newly identified U.S. patients with six common types of cancer, according to a research letter published online Aug. 4 in JAMA Network Open.

Harvey W. Kaufman, M.D., from Quest Diagnostics in Secaucus, New Jersey, and colleagues analyzed weekly changes in the number of patients with newly identified cancer before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. The mean weekly numbers of newly diagnosed patients were compared between the baseline period (Jan. 6, 2019, to Feb. 29, 2020) and the COVID-19 period (March 1 to April 18, 2020).

Data were included for 278,778 patients: 258,598 and 20,180 from the baseline and COVID-19 periods, respectively. The researchers found that the mean weekly numbers of newly identified patients during baseline were: 2,208 with breast cancer, 946 with colorectal cancer, 695 with lung cancer, 271 with pancreatic cancer, 96 with gastric cancer, and 94 with esophageal cancer. For the six cancers combined, the weekly number decreased by 46.4 percent during the pandemic (from 4,310 to 2,310), with significant decreases for all cancer types ranging from 24.7 to 51.8 percent for pancreatic and breast cancer, respectively.

"While residents have taken to social distancing, cancer does not pause. The delay in diagnosis will likely lead to presentation at more advanced stages and poorer clinical outcomes," the authors write. "Planning may entail more robust digital technology to strengthen clinical telehealth offerings and other patient-clinician interactions."

All authors disclosed financial ties to Quest Diagnostics.

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