When the U.S. suddenly went into lockdown in March of 2020, the delivery of health care was drastically changed. To protect patients and staff from exposure, to conserve valuable PPE, and, for some hospitals, to focus on caring for COVID patients, hospitals and clinics reduced non-emergency care.
Prostate cancer screening is done with a simple PSA blood test. While PSA screening for prostate cancer is, by definition, not urgent, it is an important tool to find prostate cancer early, when it is more treatable. Now, a recent study published in JAMA Oncology shows how many prostate cancer screenings were missed in the U.S. during the pandemic.
Researchers used a large database of more than 60 million people enrolled in Medicare Advantage and commercial insurance plans across the country. They calculated monthly screening rates (number of cancer screenings per 100,000 members in each month), comparing 2018, 2019, and 2020. The results showed that rates of prostate cancer screening decreased sharply from March through May, 2020, compared with the same months in 2019. April saw the largest drop: down 63%, from 4025 screenings per 100,000 men in 2019 to 1474 per 100,000 in 2020.
Fortunately, prostate cancer screening rebounded to usual levels in June and July, 2020. However, researchers estimated that a deficit of 1.6 million prostate cancer screenings across the U.S. remained. The study also examined breast and colorectal cancer screening.
If you have put off your PSA screening for any reason, don’t delay any longer. Contact your doctor about getting back on your precision prostate cancer screening plan.