According to the World Health Organization, 2.3 million women were diagnosed with breast cancer, and 685,000 died from breast cancer globally in 2020. By the end of this year, 7.8 million living women will have been diagnosed with breast cancer over the past five years.
While these numbers are already alarming, they are, sadly, only expected to increase as the global pandemic continues to impact the healthcare sector and accessibility to screenings, tests and, in some cases, treatments.
The Pandemic’s Impact on Breast Cancer Patients
Early detection and treatment for breast cancer are critical to improved survival rates and greater quality of life. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on breast cancer patients, with problems expected to endure for some time.
With nationwide lockdowns, quarantines and social distancing measures, lack of access to timely cancer-related services has been the biggest concern. Breast health services have been under immense strain, and in many places, efforts to diagnose and treat breast cancers early were halted or restricted.
These delays in diagnosis and treatment may lead to more intensive treatment requirements and increased mortality.
The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted breast cancer care in the United States dramatically, especially during the first few months of the pandemic. Mammography screenings and symptomatic detections decreased more than 80 percent during the initial months. Similarly, some treatments were reduced or delayed.
While screenings and many other components of breast cancer care returned to almost normal levels by the end of the summer, there is still a deficit in the total number of exams compared with pre-pandemic years.
Researchers have predicted the impact of COVID-19 in breast cancer mortality among all women aged 30 to 84 years living in the United States between 2020 and 2030. Breast cancer intervention and surveillance models were used to project the disruption and impact of mammography reductions, screening and diagnosis delays among women with early-stage breast cancer during the first six months of the pandemic.
The research predicted that breast cancer deaths will continue to rise until 2030 due to reduced screenings, delays in diagnosing asymptomatic cases and decreased treatment. Overall, the research shows a cumulative increase in breast cancer deaths over the next decade compared to what was expected pre-pandemic.
It may take a few more years to fully understand the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on breast cancer screenings, diagnosis, treatment and mortality. For now, health experts continue to find ways to navigate the “new normal,” with many facilities now offering teleservices and more accessible, frequent scheduling of screenings and tests.
If you are at high risk for cancer, contact Tampa Bay Radiation Oncology today for more information about breast cancer, our physicians and your breast cancer treatment options. Tampa Bay Radiation Oncology was the first Tampa Bay cancer treatment center to offer MammoSite and SAVI treatment to Florida breast cancer patients.
More than a thousand men and women diagnosed with cancer each year turn to our trusted team of cancer specialists. We encourage you to call us, ask us a question or consult with us to get a second opinion so you, too, can experience the difference.