COVID-19 Surgery Delays May Mean 2,700 More Breast Cancer Deaths Within 10 Years

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surgery delays, COVID-19

Delays in breast cancer surgery due to the COVID-19 pandemic could cost 2,797 additional deaths in the U.S. over the next decade, according to a Kantar Health analysis.

Such treatment delays also place patients at a higher risk of metastasis, or cancer spread, potentially increasing healthcare costs in the U.S. by an estimated $376 million over the next 10 years, the analysis suggests.

“The effects of the pandemic will be felt deeply in many disease areas, but none more so than in oncology,” Jeremy Brody, chief strategy officer of Kantar Health, said in a press release.

“It is important that patients continue to maintain their regular appointments and screenings to detect and treat breast cancer. The COVID-19 global pandemic needs to be a catalyst for the healthcare system to seek new ways to reach patients and ensure early detection screenings continue,” Brody said.

The analysis was released as part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, held each year in October, and is based on Kantar Health’s proprietary CancerMPact database, which provides data and insight to treatment developers and investors.

That resource estimates that 335,779 U.S. residents will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. Of those, 319,700 cases are expected to be non-metastatic, meaning the cancer has not yet spread to other places in the body. If these patients receive appropriate treatment promptly, they have a high chance overall of achieving a positive outcome.

However, a 60-day or roughly two-month delay in breast cancer surgery could result in a 4% hike in deaths among patients five years after diagnosis, and a 7% increase after 10 years, according to a study previously published in the journal JAMA Oncology.

Taking into account the estimated number of new cases this year, Kantar also speculates that 79,925 individuals were newly diagnosed with non-metastatic breast cancer during the first three months of the pandemic, when elective surgery was temporarily suspended in hospitals overwhelmed by COVID-19. That could lead to 1,598 deaths five years after diagnosis, and 2,797 after a decade.

Due to expected increases in the number of patients who develop metastatic breast cancer, overall treatment in five years is expected to cost $215.2 million more. In 10 years, that figure could almost double, to $376.7 million, according to Kantar.

Age was a primary factor in care delays, according to a study published in Breast Cancer Research and Treatment (BCRT) in August. Younger women faced the most postponements, usually related to ovarian suppression hormone treatments designed to slow or stop the growth of hormone-sensitive tumors.

Overall, however, this study found that 44% of breast cancer patients reported treatment delays due to the virus outbreak.

“Our findings reveal a pervasive impact of COVID-19 on breast cancer care and a gap in disaster preparedness that leaves cancer survivors at risk for poor outcomes,” the researchers wrote in that study.

The World Health Organization deemed COVID-19 as a pandemic in March.

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