Decrease in the number of patients diagnosed with cancer during the COVID-19 pandemic in Germany

Around the world, scientists are piecing together the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on cancer diagnosis. One retrospective German study compared the number of new cancer diagnoses before and during the pandemic. Patients who had visited any of 1403 general and specialised practices at least once pre-pandemic (April 2019-March 2020) and during the pandemic (April 2020-March 2021) were included. Both groups evaluated almost 4 million patients each, and diagnoses included all types of cancer according to the International Classification of Diseases. During the pandemic, the authors found that the number of patients diagnosed with cancer showed a decreasing non-significant trend across all practices and cancers compared to pre-pandemic. However, this decrease was only significant in general practices. This may be due to various factors, such as fewer available in-person consultations (including cancer screenings), and delayed consultations due to patients’ fear and concerns around COVID-19. To add to this, general practices play a major role in skin cancer screening in Germany; in this study, only skin cancer demonstrated a significant decrease in diagnoses out of all cancer types. This study may highlight the importance of primary care in cancer diagnoses and cancer care, specifically in skin cancer. While this particular study did not find a significant overall decrease in cancer diagnoses, it should be noted that several studies from countries such as New Zealand, Spain, and Belgium found up to a 40% decrease in cancer diagnoses during the pandemic. The long-term effects of disrupted cancer diagnoses and care during the pandemic have yet to be ascertained. Read the original article here.
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