Did Coronavirus Delay Cancer Diagnoses in Pennsylvania?

Diagnoses of some common types of cancer dropped in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a recent article in The Philadelphia Inquirer. As health systems restricted most nonurgent medical services in the early months of the pandemic, screenings dropped as much as 96%.

This analysis came from a study by Quest Diagnostics. The study tracked 278,800 patients between January 2018 and April 2020. It recorded how often patients referred for testing received a cancer diagnosis.

According to the article, medical professionals fear that people who have not been able to get tested, or who have waited, may not receive a diagnosis of cancer until it has advanced. The delay in care means that conditions will probably cause more damage than they would have if they had been caught earlier. Routine procedures like colonoscopies remove polyps before they can cause colon cancer. Unfortunately, procedures like colonoscopies were classified as nonurgent. Other findings have shown a rise in undetected cancers that may be more difficult to treat after a delayed diagnosis.

Some patients have begun to return as health systems have loosened restrictions, but some are still staying away. “We need health care to reach out to patients and invite them back in,” said Harvey Kaufman, the study’s lead author and medical director at Quest Diagnostics. “If there are opportunities to expand hours, use telemedicine to connect … we need to think of clever ways to engage patients and bring them back.”

If you fear that you have been injured by a delayed cancer diagnosis and would like to talk to a medical malpractice attorney, please reach out to us.