Nearly Half of Breast Cancer Survivors Report Delaying Treatment Due to Pandemic

An online survey found that 44% of breast cancer survivors had care delayed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nearly half of breast cancer survivors had a delay in care due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, according to a new study published in Breast Cancer Research and Treatment.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused more than 775,000 deaths with over 21.98 million confirmed cases, according to the World Health Organization. For many, the pandemic has caused medical and dental treatment to be delayed or canceled.

The study authors collected data on breast cancer survivorship using an online questionnaire administered to 609 breast cancer survivors in the United States between April 2 and April 27. The questionnaire was aimed at identifying which types of care were being delayed, such as chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, hormonal treatment, or routine follow-up appointments. The average age of respondents was 47. Of those who responded, 78% were White, 17 were Black, and 3% were Asian.

The analysis found that 44% of respondents reported a delay in care. The most commonly reported delay was for routine follow-up visits, which was indicated by 79% of those respondents.

Sixty six percent reported a delay in breast reconstruction surgery, 60% reported a delay in diagnostic imagining, and half reported a delay in lab testing. Approximately 30% of respondents reported a delay in hospital- or clinical-based therapies, such as radiation (30%), infusion therapies (32%), and surgical tumor removal (26%).

"We expected the usual racial difference we see in health care, with Black patients being disproportionately affected, but our results showed that patients were universally affected by COVID in terms of delays in breast cancer care, likely because in those early weeks, hospitals and health care facilities were postponing visits and procedures across the board as they took on the growing burden of dealing with COVID-19," study co-author and research scientist in the cancer survivorship program at the University of Illinois Cancer Center, Tamara Hamlish, PhD, said in the press release.

Age was found to be the only factor that contributed to delays. The study authors said that this may be due to different types of breast cancer generally found in younger women who are treated with hormone therapy for ovarian suppression.

Reference:

Half of breast cancer survivors had delays in care due to COVID-19 (News release) Chicago, Ill, August 18, 2020, EurekAlert!, accessed August 19, 2020