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Newly diagnosed cancer and the COVID-19 pandemic: tumour stage migration and higher early mortality


Background We compared the new outpatient clinic referrals during the first 10 months of the COVID-19 pandemic with the year before.

Methods We compared baseline characteristics of the 2208 new referrals in 2020 (n=922) and 2019 (n=1286) with Χ2 and Mann-Whitney U tests and calculated ORs with binary logistic regression. To evaluate the expected changes in the cancer survival secondary to stage migration, we used the 5-year survival data of Survival, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) Program 2010–2016.

Results The percentage of patients with inoperable or metastatic disease was significantly increased during the pandemic (49.8% vs 39%, OR: 1.553, 95% CI: 1.309 to 1.843, p<0.001). We observed a significant decrease in the percentage of patients diagnosed via the screening methods (18.8% vs 28.7%, OR: 1.698, 95% CI: 1.240 to 2.325, p=0.001). The 90-day mortality after the cancer diagnosis was significantly higher during the pandemic (10.5% vs 6.6%, OR: 1.661, 95% CI: 1.225 to 2.252, p=0.001). Due to the increased advanced-stage disease rate at first referral, significant decreases in 5-year survival rates were expected for breast cancer (−8.9%), colorectal cancer (−11.1%), cervix cancer (−10.3%) and melanoma (−7%).

Conclusion We think that collaborative efforts are paramount to prevent the pandemic of late cancer diagnoses and ensure patient safety during the pandemic.

  • cancer
  • COVID-19

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