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New study shows fewer cancer surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation treatments during start of COVID-19 pandemic

Researchers stress more studies are needed to determine full extent of cancer care disruption during the pandemic.

A large study led by researchers at ACS shows there were approximately 100,000 fewer cancer surgeries performed during the first months of the pandemic, an estimated 40,000 fewer chemotherapy treatments initiated, and more than 55,000 fewer radiation treatments in the United States. Scientists attribute these significant deficits to a drop in the number of cancer diagnoses instead of changes in cancer treatment strategies. The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Oncology.

"These findings are very concerning,” said Dr. Leticia Nogueira, scientific director, health services research at the American Cancer Society and lead author of the study. “We knew the COVID-19 pandemic led to disruptions in access to healthcare, including cancer care, but we’re now beginning to see the full extent of the damage.”

“More studies still need to be done concerning cancer care and disruptions during the pandemic, mainly if these treatment deficits resulted in changes in cancer survival and mortality,” added Nogueira. “Future studies should also evaluate whether clinical, socioeconomic, and facility characteristics are associated with changes in cancer treatments during the pandemic.”

Dr. Robin Yabroff is senior author of the study. Other ACS authors include Elizabeth J. SchaferDr. Qinjin FanDr. Nikita Sandeep WagleJingxuan ZhaoKewei Sylvia ShiDr. Xuesong Han, and Dr. Ahmedin Jemal.

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