Patients diagnosed with colorectal cancer after COVID-19 lockdown fare worse, study suggests

Patients in France who were newly diagnosed with metastatic colorectal cancer after the country's first COVID-19 lockdown in spring 2020 had a higher tumor burden compared to those who were diagnosed before the lockdown, according to research published Sept. 8 in JAMA Network Open.

A total of 80 patients were involved in the analysis: 40 people who were screened before the first COVID-19 lockdown in France and 40 people who were screened after. 

Researchers analyzed the tumor burden among patients who received a metastatic colorectal cancer diagnosis by measuring circulating tumor DNA in patients' plasma. They found the median circulating tumor DNA concentration among patients diagnosed after the lockdown was statistically higher than those diagnosed before lockdown. 

Higher tumor burden was also linked to lower median survival of 14.7 months compared to 20 months. 

"The tumor burden of colorectal cancer varied and appeared to be associated with poor survival for those who received a post lockdown diagnosis, suggesting that this cancer is a major area for intervention to minimize COVID-19-associated diagnostic delay," researchers said. 

"To our knowledge, this study was the first to assess the association between COVID-19 restrictions and delayed treatment and diagnostic services for a specific cancer." 

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