CDC: Breast and Cervical Cancer Screenings Declined During COVID-19 Pandemic


Factors that may have contributed to the screening declines include site closures and temporary pausing of services.

The total number of cancer screening tests received by women through the CDC’s National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP) declined by 87% for breast cancer and 84% for cervical cancer during April 2020 compared with the previous 5-year averages for that month, according to a recent study.1,2 The goal of NBCCEDP is to improve access to breast and cervical cancer screening by assisting low-income, uninsured, and underinsured women and provide services to help patients overcome barriers to receive access to quality care.3

The study examined the impact of COVID-19 on NBCCEDP screening services during January-June 2020. This rapid decline in screenings occurred along the same timeframe that there were drastic increases in COVID-19 cases in Spring 2020.1 Additionally, the study revealed the large impact on racial and ethnic minority groups. Declines in breast cancer screening varied from 84% among Hispanic women to 98% among American Indian/Alaskan Native women.1,2 There were also declines in cervical cancer screenings that varied from 82% among Black women to 92% among Asian Pacific Islander women.1,2

Factors that may have contributed to the screening declines include site closures and temporary pausing of services due to COVID-19.1 Stay at home recommendations and fear of contracting COVID-19 are likely patient factors that contributed to the delay in these screenings. Screenings began to increase by the end of the study period in all groups by June 2020.1

“This study highlights a decline in cancer screening among women of racial and ethnic minority groups with low incomes when their access to medical services decreased at the beginning of the pandemic, said Amy DeGroff, PhD, MPH, CDC health scientist and lead author in a press release.1

Health disparities are associated with worse health outcomes, and they have been highlighted during COVID-19 as a major public health issue globally. It is critical to eliminate health disparities through education and community outreach programs. Pharmacists and other health care professionals can play an important role in educating patients about the importance of breast and cervical cancer screenings and ensuring all individuals have access to them.


  1. Sharp declines in breast and cervical cancer screening [news release]. June 30, 2021; CDC. Accessed June 30, 2021.
  2. DeGroff A, Miller J, Sharma K, et al.COVID-19 impact on screening test volume through the National Breast and Cervical Cancer early detection program, January–June 2020, in the United States.Preventive Medicine.2021; 151.
  3. CDC.National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP). Accessed June 30, 2021.
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