Colon Cancer Diagnoses Fell 40% in Pandemic, and That’s Not Good News

Written by Kara Morris
HealthDay reporter

MONDAY, Oct 4, 2021 (HealthDay News) — Colon cancer numbers have dropped dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic, but that doesn’t mean fewer people are getting sick.

In Spain, researchers discovered a 40% reduction in colon cancer diagnoses, leading experts to worry about the repercussions.

The lead author, Dr. Maria Jose Domper Arnal. She is from the Department of Gastroenterology, University Clinic Hospital and Aragon Institute for Health Research in Zaragoza.

“Although these numbers come to 1.3 million people in Spain, it is very likely that the same decline in diagnoses will occur elsewhere around the world where screening has been stopped and surgeries postponed, especially in countries that have been severely affected by COVID-19, Arnal added.

The researchers compared data from the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic (from March 15, 2020 to February 28, 2021) with data from the previous year. They found that nearly two-thirds of the 1,385 colon cancer cases diagnosed in those two years at multiple hospitals in Spain occurred in the year before the pandemic.

In addition, there was a 27% decrease in colonoscopies performed during the pandemic compared to the previous year.

People diagnosed in the epidemic year were older than in the pre-pandemic year, had more frequent symptoms and greater complications and were seen in a more advanced disease stage.

These symptoms can include bowel perforation, abscesses, bowel obstruction, and bleeding that requires hospitalization. These issues accounted for nearly 15% of cases during the pandemic, compared to less than 11% in the pre-pandemic period. Stage 4 cancers were about 20% during the pandemic and about 16% before the pandemic.

There will be approximately 150,000 cases of colon or rectal cancer in the United States this year, and about 53,000 deaths from the disease, according to the American Cancer Society.

The study cites the suspension of screening programs and the postponement of non-urgent colonoscopy as reasons for the decline. During the pandemic, fewer cancers were found during routine checkups and more were diagnosed through symptoms, according to the findings.

The research was presented Sunday at the annual meeting of United European Gastroenterologists, UEG Week Virtual 2021. The results presented at the meetings should be considered preliminary to be published in a peer-reviewed journal.

“Colon and rectal cancer is often curable if it is caught at an early stage,” Arnall said. “Our concern is that we miss out on the opportunity for patients to be diagnosed at this early stage, and this will have an indirect impact on patient outcomes and survival.” In a press release of the meeting. We will likely see these fallout for years to come.”

more information

The American Cancer Society has more on colon cancer.

Source: United European Gastroenterology, press release, 3 October 2021

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