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Cancer Screenings Disrupted During Pandemic at Federally Qualified Health Centers

Despite resumption of in-person screenings, catching up from COVID-19 disruptions will be difficult

MONDAY, Aug. 2, 2021 (HealthDay News) — The COVID-19 pandemic significantly disrupted breast, colorectal, and cervical cancer screenings among patients at federally qualified health centers (FQHCs), according to a study published online June 30 in Preventive Medicine.

Marcie Fisher-Borne, Ph.D., M.P.H., from the American Cancer Society in Atlanta, and colleagues described COVID-19-related cancer screening service disruptions reported by 22 FQHCs in 15 states participating in a 17-month intervention aimed at reducing cancer incidence and mortality disparities.

The researchers found that service disruptions and/or preventive care cancellations due to COVID-19 varied in severity and duration, with 59 percent stopping cancer screenings completely. While centers transitioned to telehealth visits (100 percent) or rescheduled screenings, the impact of these strategies may be limited by continued pandemic-related disruptions and the inability to do most screenings at home, with the exception of colon cancer screening. In-person screening resumed at most FQHCs with structural changes in the office, but limited in-person appointments and high levels of community transmission may reduce FQHC abilities to provide catch-up services.

“Ensuring and expanding access to care as we move out of the pandemic will be critical to preventing excess cancer incidence and mortality in vulnerable populations,” the authors write.

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