COVID-19 related decline in cancer screenings most pronounced for elderly patients and women in Germany: a claims data analysis
Purpose: This study aimed to analyze the utilization of cancer screenings in Germany before and during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. The objective of the analysis was to identify the population at particular risk and to derive recommendations for the future use of resources to prevent long-term deteriorations in health outcomes. Methods: The ... analysis was conducted based on claims data of all preventive health services for 15,833,662 patients from the largest statutory health insurance fund in Germany. Utilization of general female cancer screening, general male cancer screening, general health checkup, colorectal cancer screening stool test, colorectal cancer screening consultation, colonoscopy, skin cancer screening, and mammography screening was compared before (2017–2019) and during (2020) the pandemic. Results: Data of a total of 42,046,078 observed screenings showed that the utilization of the individual screenings developed differently, but that the overall utilization decreased significantly by 21.46% during the COVID-19 pandemic (p < 0.001). At the same time, no catch-up effects were detected for total screenings throughout the entire year 2020. The highest decline in screenings was found for the elderly (p < 0.001) and women (p < 0.001). Conclusion: Because the elderly are at higher risk for cancer, the omission of early detection might lead to higher treatment costs, reduced quality of life, and higher mortality. In addition, women's medical care in particular has been negatively affected, for example, by the interruption of mammography screenings and the lack of catch-up effects. Therefore, resources must be targeted to reduce burdens on health outcomes and public health in the long term.
Original publication in
Journal of cancer research and clinical oncology 149 (2023), 5345-5367