Three Months of COVID-19 May Mean 80,000 Missed Cancer Diagnoses

Richard Franki

May 05, 2020

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More than 80,000 diagnoses of five common cancers may be missed or delayed by early June because of disruptions to health care caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report by the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science looking at trends in the United States.

Screening and monitoring tests for breast, prostate, colorectal, cervical, and lung cancer were down 39%-90% in early April, compared with the baseline month of February, according to report authors Murray Aitken and Michael Kleinrock, both of IQVIA.

These findings are based on data from IQVIA's medical claims database, which includes more than 205 million patients, over 1.7 billion claims, and 3 billion service records obtained annually.

The data suggest that, at current positivity rates, there could be 36,000 missed or delayed diagnoses of breast cancer during the 3-month period from early March through early June. Estimates for missed diagnoses of the four other cancers analyzed include 450 for lung cancer, 2,500 for cervical cancer, 18,800 for colorectal cancer, and 22,600 for prostate cancer.

The authors project a total of 22 million canceled or delayed tests for the five cancers over the 3-month period ending June 5, based on a comparison of claims data for early April with the February baseline. Catching up on this backlog will be problematic, according to the authors.

"Current excess health care capacity ... would require providers to shift priorities to make time and space in schedules and facilities as well as the cooperation of patients to return to health care providers," the authors wrote. "Both of these could be further disrupted by economic factors or reintroduction of social distancing in a reemergence of the outbreak."

The report was produced by the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science without industry or government funding.

SOURCE: Murray A and Kleinrock M. Shifts in healthcare demand, delivery and care during the COVID-19 era. IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science. April 2020.

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