A Crisis of Undiagnosed Cancers Is Emerging in the Pandemic’s Second Year

May 4, 2021

(ProPublica) – In the shadows of COVID-19, another crisis has emerged. With the pandemic in its second year and hope intermittently arriving along with vaccine vials, it’s as if a violent flood has begun to recede, exposing the wreckage left in its wake. Amid the damage is an untold number of cancers that went undiagnosed or untreated as patients postponed annual screenings, and as cancer clinics and hospitals suspended biopsies and chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Across the country, preventive cancer screenings plummeted by as much as 94% during the first four months of last year. At Mount Sinai, the number of mammograms dropped by 96% during that same period. By July, screenings had started to rebound, both nationally and at Mount Sinai, but still trailed pre-COVID-19 numbers. Fewer screenings led to a decline in new diagnoses, which one study found fell by more than 50% for some cancers last year. But people didn’t stop getting cancer; they stopped getting diagnosed.