(HealthDay News) — In 2020, there was a considerable reduction in procedures used to diagnose cancer and in diagnoses of new cancers, according to a study published online in Cancer.

Brian R. Englum, MD, from the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, and colleagues reviewed all encounters at Veterans’ Affairs facilities nationwide from 2016 through 2020 and quantified trends in new diagnoses of cancer and in procedures facilitating their diagnosis from Jan. 1, 2018. Reductions in procedures and new cancer diagnoses in 2020 were estimated using 2018 to 2019 as a baseline.

The researchers found 4.1 million cancer-related encounters, 3.9 million relevant procedures, and 251,647 new cancers diagnosed from 2018 through 2020. In 2020, colonoscopies decreased by 45% compared with the annual averages in 2018 through 2019, while there were decreases of 29, 10, and 21% in prostate biopsies, chest computed tomography scans, and cystoscopies, respectively. There was a 13% decrease noted in new cancer diagnoses, to 23%. The declines varied by state, and despite reductions in pandemic-related restrictions, they continued to accumulate.

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“Health systems across the United States have suffered a major disruption in cancer care from COVID-19,” the authors write. “Although the extent and impact of the pandemic on immediate treatment of known cancers is predictable and has been reported on, we found a major reduction in diagnostic procedures that are used to identify new cancers and a consequent reduction in diagnosis of new cancers.”

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