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Pandemic Has Disrupted Lung Cancer Screenings

Once operations resumed, decrease seen in new patients screened, proportion of suspicious nodules increased

doctor and patient discussing cancer xray

TUESDAY, Jan. 5, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- COVID-19 has caused significant disruption in lung cancer screening, according to a study published online Dec. 17 in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.

Robert M. Van Haren, M.D., from the University of Cincinnati, and colleagues examined the impact of COVID-19 on lung cancer screening and subsequent cancer diagnosis among 2,153 patients captured in an institutional screening database (January 2017 to July 2020).

The researchers report that low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) was suspended on March 13, 2020, and 818 screening visits were canceled. During the COVID-19 period (March to July 2020), total monthly LDCT and new patient monthly LDCT were significantly decreased. Despite resumption of full operations on June 1, new patient monthly LDCT has remained low. Follow-up LDCTs were significantly increased with reopening compared with the COVID-19 period, but the "no-show" rate also was significantly increased. After resumptions of operations, the percentage of patients with lung nodules suspicious for malignancy were significantly increased.

"Using lung cancer and the LDCT screening program as a model, this early analysis shows the unrecognized consequences related to the pandemic for screening programs and cancer care," the authors write.

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