Cancer screenings at Mass General Brigham fell 76% amid pandemic

The number of cancer screenings conducted at Boston-based Mass General Brigham health system fell significantly between March and June compared to the same period in 2019, according to a study published Jan. 14 in JAMA Oncology

Researchers identified 15,453 patients who underwent cancer screening examinations between March and June, which was considered the pandemic study period. During the preceding three months between December and March, 64,269 screenings were completed, indicating a 76 percent drop. Researchers also compared the 15,453 screenings conducted during the pandemic period to the same three-month period in 2019. They found 60,344 people underwent screenings during the same period in 2019. 

As a result of the drop in screenings, researchers estimate 1,438 cancerous and precancerous lesion diagnoses were missed during the pandemic period. 

Since earlier stages of the pandemic, researchers found a significant recovery in the number of screenings and subsequent diagnoses. Between June and September, the number of screenings climbed up to 51,944. 

"This investigation is especially timely given that we are currently dealing with a second, and potentially worse wave of the pandemic," said Quoc-Dien Trinh, MD, study author. "We have learned to leverage a redesigned patient flow, increased the use of telehealth, and made other accommodations to allow our patients to continue receiving standard of care cancer screening and diagnosis in the safest possible environment." 


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