New research: 134K+ cancer cases were missed in 2020

There were around 134,395 cases of cancer that went undiagnosed in U.S. adults during the first 10 months of 2020 due to pandemic disruptions in screening and care, research published Feb. 22 in JAMA Oncology estimates.

Prior to this study, an investigation into the pandemic's effects on cancer screenings and care had not been conducted on such a scale. Led by researchers from the University of Kentucky, experts analyzed nationwide surveillance data on cases of invasive cancer diagnosis that were reported to the U.S. Cancer Statistics office between Jan. 1, 2018, through Dec. 31, 2020.

They then measured the difference between the observed and expected cancer incidence rates to calculate the estimated total of missed cancer cases.

The trends in the data revealed that out of more than 1.2 million cancer cases, during the height of the pandemic between March and May 2020, cancer incidence rates were 28.6% lower than expected. Throughout the first 10 months of the pandemic, incidence rates were 13% lower than anticipated. 

By cancer type, the most missed diagnoses during this timeframe were in prostate cancer with around 22,950 missed cases; female breast cancer with around 16,870 missed cases, and lung cancer with 16,333, according to the data. 

"There will undoubtedly — and unfortunately — be a subsequent bump in cancer mortality," the authors wrote of the results. "How much, and for how long, will provide a more complete picture of the consequences of COVID disruptions on the burden of cancer in the U.S."

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