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Pandemic Brought Big Drop in Breast Cancer Screenings

By Robert Preidt
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Aug. 31, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- Many parts of the United States saw a significant drop in breast cancer screening of older low-income women during the COVID-19 pandemic, new research shows.

Analysis of 32 data sources from community health centers serving low-income residents revealed that breast cancer screenings for women aged 50 to 74 dropped by 8% in July 2019. This wiped out an 18% rise in July 2018 to July 2019.

"This study is important because these populations have long-standing barriers to accessing care, lower breast screening rates, higher breast cancer [death] rates, and are especially vulnerable to health care disruptions," said study leader Stacey Fedewa of the American Cancer Society.

The study showed that 63% would have had breast cancer screenings in 2020 if the trend from 2018 to 2019 continued, as opposed to nearly half of those who were.

The decline in screening means the 32 centers had potentially 47,517 fewer mammograms and 242 missed breast cancer diagnoses, according to findings published Aug. 26 in the journal Cancer.

Researchers noted that breast cancer screening rates were improved at the American Cancer Society clinics. The impact of the pandemic on screening programs in local community health centers is not clear.

Programs that were introduced before and continued through 2020 may have reduced the pandemic's effects on breast cancer screening services, the study authors suggested.

In a journal release, the researchers noted that lower screening rates for women living in low-income communities and high breast cancer deaths rates are signs of a need to increase resources.

Fedewa concluded, "These actions will become critical as communities or clinics return for screening with the hope of reaching prepandemic breast-cancer screening rates in their communities."

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more on breast cancer screening.

SOURCE: Cancer, news release, Aug. 26, 2021