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COVID-19 Delays Could Have a Profound Impact on Breast Cancer Outlook

DELAYS in treatment, as a result of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, have been experienced by many people with cancer across the world. According to an analysis using Kantar Health’s CancerMPact® Patient Metrics database, the delays in breast cancer surgery earlier this year could result in an additional 3,000 deaths in the USA over the next 10 years.

The Kantar Health, New York City, New York, USA, database provides data and insight to drug developers and investors and estimates that there will be over 335,000 new breast cancer cases in the USA in 2020, around 320,000 of which will be nonmetastatic. The routine treatment that is normally started shortly after diagnosis provides patients with a good chance of positive outcomes; however, a 2016 study showed that a 60-day delay in receiving breast cancer surgery can cause a 4% increase in the number of deaths after 5 years and 7% more deaths at 10 years.

In the first 3 months of the pandemic in the USA, like elsewhere, elective surgery was temporarily suspended in hospitals that were overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases. Using the database, it is predicted that approximately 80,000 new nonmetastatic breast cancer cases were diagnosed during these 3 months, and thus delays in receiving surgery were experienced. Using the percentages from the 2016 study, it is estimated that this delay in receiving surgery would lead to 1,598 deaths 5 years after diagnosis and 2,797 at 10 years.

“The effects of the pandemic will be felt deeply in many disease areas, but none more so than in oncology,” commented Jeremy Brody, Kantar Health. He added: “It is important that patients continue to maintain their regular appointments and screenings to detect and treat breast cancer. The COVID-19 global pandemic needs to be a catalyst for the healthcare system to seek new ways to reach patients and ensure early detection screenings continue.”