(HealthDay News) — The COVID-19 pandemic had a severe impact on cancer imaging in 2020, and computed tomography (CT) for cancer screening and initial workup did not recover to pre-COVID-19 levels through mid-November 2020, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, held from Nov. 28 to Dec. 2 in Chicago.
Marc Succi, M.D., from Massachusetts General Hospital, and colleagues analyzed cancer-related CT exams during three periods of 2020: pre-COVID-19 (Jan. 5 to March 14), COVID-19 peak (March 15 to May 2), and post-COVID-19 peak (May 3 to Nov. 14).
The researchers found that during the COVID-19 peak in 2020, there was a significant decrease in CT volumes (−42.2 percent), with decreases of 81.7, 54.8, 30.7, and 44.7 percent for cancer screening, initial workup, active cancer, and cancer surveillance, respectively. The only setting with stable cancer-related CT volumes was the emergency department. CT volumes for cancer screening and initial workup did not recover in the post-COVID-19 peak period (−11.7 and −20.0 percent, respectively); the outpatient setting was particularly affected. For active cancer, CT volumes recovered post-peak, but the recovery was inconsistent across hospital types. Post-peak, there was an increase in inpatient and emergency department-based cancer-related CTs (+20.0 and +33.2 percent, respectively).
“The decline during the COVID peak was expected because of stay-at-home orders and the number of imaging departments that shut down as a precaution,” Succi said in a statement. “Once normal operations resumed, you’d expect that these patients were being imaged in an equitable way, but, in fact, it turns out that they weren’t.”