“That sort of thing could impact the results. It’s one thing to delay testing for three to six months, for example, but we’re a little more worried when we delay for a year or even thinking in the worst-case scenario, people who have been more dramatically affected by the pandemic, perhaps job loss or loss of health insurance, who may drop out of testing altogether, ”Sprague said.
The rebound was also stronger in white and black women than in Asian and Hispanic women, according to the study, although it is not known why. The study looked at a sample of radiology facilities in the United States that had a diverse population as a whole, Sprague said, but it may also reflect what was happening at some of those specific sites.
The results were recently published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
Sprague said more research is underway to understand the impact of the pandemic on breast cancer detection and outcomes.
Another recent report found that if cancer screening rates start to rebound, patients are being diagnosed with more advanced cancers than before the pandemic.
“The trend towards more advanced disease, while alarming, does not automatically mean worse outcomes for patients,” Dr. Thomas Eichler, president of the American Society for Radiation Oncology, said in a briefing on the results last week. “Modern treatments, such as stereotaxic radiation therapy or immunotherapy drugs, may offset some of the threat of late-stage cancers.
Dr.Julie Gralow, chief medical officer of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, noted that another demographic, the over 70s, had more delays in diagnostic mammograms at the start of the pandemic, although these numbers were also rebounded.
Predictions from earlier in the pandemic assumed screening numbers would not rebound for six months, but it appears to have happened much faster, Gralow said. This could mean that there are fewer above-average deaths than what experts had previously expressed, she noted.
Now, it is important to reassure those who still have not come back that it is time to return to routine health maintenance and that this includes screening for breast, cervical and cancer. colon, she said.