US cancer diagnoses down 46% in initial months of pandemic, study shows

There was a significant decline in newly diagnosed cancer patients in the U.S. during the initial months of the coronavirus pandemic, a new study shows.

The study, published in JAMA Network Open, gathered data on patients who underwent testing conducted by Quest Diagnostics for six common types of cancer: breast, colorectal, lung, pancreatic, gastric and esophageal. Researchers determined the average weekly number of newly identified cancer patients in the baseline period (Jan. 6, 2019 to Feb. 29) and compared it to the same figure during the pandemic period (March 1 to April 18).

Researchers found that the average weekly number of newly identified cancer patients dropped 46.4 percent from the baseline period to the pandemic period for the six cancers combined. The drop in the average weekly number of newly identified cancer patients ranged from 24.7 percent for pancreatic cancer to 51.8 percent for breast cancer.

"While residents have taken to social distancing, cancer does not pause," study authors wrote. "The delay in diagnosis will likely lead to presentation at more advanced stages and poorer clinical outcomes."

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