Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Cancer Diagnoses in General and Specialized Practices in Germany

COVID-19 represents a major challenge for global healthcare systems. As healthcare systems have been overwhelmed by the large number of COVID-19 patients, other diseases such as cancer may have been neglected during the pandemic. This study explored the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on cancer diagnosis in general and specialized practices in Germany.  The number of new cancer diagnoses per general practice decreased significantly between March and May 2020 compared with the same period in 2019 (March: -12.0%, April: -27.6%, and May: -23.4%). The decrease in the number of new cancer diagnoses was particularly pronounced among cancers of the skin and the respiratory and intrathoracic organs. Given that a sudden decline in the actual incidence of cancer is unlikely, these data suggest that a large proportion of cancer cases have been undiagnosed or delayed, which could result in poor short-term and long-term outcomes. Given that the COVID-19 pandemic is still ongoing in Europe, measures such as an increased number of teleconsultations with primary care physicians should be taken to improve cancer diagnosis in this context of limited healthcare resources. Data from this study provides important evidence for the vivid discussion on how healthcare systems should optimally deal with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

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