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Women’s Cancer Screenings Plummeted During Pandemic

Decline especially noticeable among women of racial and ethnic minority groups with low incomes

THURSDAY, July 1, 2021 (HealthDay News) — Breast and cervical cancer screenings dropped sharply among low-income minority women during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a study published online June 30 in Preventive Medicine.

Compared with the previous five-year averages for April, rates of screening tests received by women through the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program for underserved women were 87 percent lower for breast cancer and 84 percent lower for cervical cancer in April 2020.

Declines in breast cancer screening ranged from 84 percent among Hispanic women to 98 percent among American Indian/Alaskan Native women. Declines in cervical cancer screening ranged from 82 percent among Black women to 92 percent among Asian Pacific Islander women. Breast cancer screenings were 86 percent lower in metro areas, 88 percent lower in urban areas, and 89 percent lower in rural areas compared to the previous five-year averages, the findings showed. Declines in cervical cancer screenings were 85 percent in metro areas, 82 percent in rural areas, and 77 percent in urban areas.

Screening rates had started to recover in all groups by June 2020, which was the end of the analysis period. Factors that might have contributed to the declines included screening site closures and temporary suspension of breast and cervical cancer screening services due to COVID-19, according to the CDC. It is also likely that stay-at-home orders/recommendations and fear of contracting COVID-19 deterred women from booking diagnostic tests, the study authors suggest.

“This study highlights a decline in cancer screening among women of racial and ethnic minority groups with low incomes when their access to medical services decreased at the beginning of the pandemic,” lead author Amy DeGroff, Ph.D., M.P.H., said in a CDC news release. “CDC encourages health care professionals to help minimize delays in testing by continuing routine cancer screening for women having symptoms or at high risk for breast or cervical cancer.”

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