By Jinghong Chen

Risk of a COVID-19 infection and problems with hospital capacity led to a substantial decline in new cancer cases diagnosed early in the pandemic. Though medical practices reopened after early lockdowns, the number of newly diagnosed patients remained below prepandemic level through March 2021, according to a JAMA Network Open research letter. The study analyzed patients newly diagnosed with eight cancer types in four periods: prepandemic (January 2019 to February 2020), first pandemic period (March to May 2020), second period (June to October 2020) and third period (November 2020 to March 2021). During the first pandemic period, the average monthly number of new diagnoses fell 29.8% from 32,407 to 22,748 for the eight cancers combined. During the second period, the average number only declined 9.6%, statistically at the same level as it was before the pandemic for all cancers except prostate cancer. However, during the third period, average diagnoses showed a significant decline, dropping by 19.1% compared with prepandemic. “Our findings call for planning to address the consequences of delayed diagnoses, including strengthened clinical telehealth offerings supporting patient-clinician interactions,” the study authors wrote.

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