COVID-19 Pandemic Led to Delays in Care for Nearly Half of Breast Cancer Survivors

Breast Cancer is nowadays rapidly increasing in the urban Indian women.The early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic caused 44% of breast cancer survivors to have a delay in care, according to an online survey.Because COVID-19 is so contagious, and to save healthcare resources for people diagnosed with COVID-19, many hospitals and other healthcare facilities delayed or cancelled elective procedures beginning in March 2020. Elective procedures included anything that didn’t need to be done to save someone’s life. Breast cancer screening was considered an elective procedure, so many mammograms were delayed or cancelled. Some breast cancer surgeries and other treatments also were delayed, changed, or cancelled.

The researchers from the University of Illinois Chicago who did this study wanted to see how changes in healthcare due to the pandemic affected people who had been treated for breast cancer.The researchers wrote a 50-question online survey to figure out how the COVID-19 pandemic had affected breast cancer care. The researchers invited adults who had been diagnosed with breast cancer to complete the survey by sending invitations via email, posting on social media, and sending invitations to breast cancer support networks. The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has had a profound impact on cancer care across the globe. Early data indicate increased risk of COVID-19 morbidity and mortality for cancer survivors.

Delays in a routine or follow-up doctor appointment were the most common, followed by delays in breast reconstruction surgery and diagnostic imaging or testing.About 30% of the respondents said they had a delay in treatment, including radiation, infusions, and surgery to remove the cancer.

As time has passed, doctors have seen how protective procedures, such as wearing a face mask, washing your hands, maintaining physical distancing, and avoiding gathering with people in a group, have helped slow the spread of the virus. So most facilities are once again offering all aspects of breast cancer care, including screening.

During the pandemic, the weekly average number of people diagnosed with these six cancers dropped by 46.4%. Specifically, breast cancer diagnoses dropped by 51.8% — from 2,208 to 1,064.

“Our results indicate a significant decline in newly identified patients with 6 common types of cancer, mirroring findings from other countries,” the researchers wrote. “The Netherlands Cancer Registry has seen as much as a 40% decline in weekly cancer incidence, and the United Kingdom has experienced a 75% decline in referrals for suspected cancer since COVID-19 restrictions were implemented.

“While residents have taken to social distancing, cancer does not pause,” they continued. “The delay in diagnosis will likely lead to presentation at more advanced stages and poorer clinical outcomes. One study suggests a potential increase of 33,890 excessive cancer deaths in the United States.”