The total number of cancer screening tests women received through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program declined by 87% for breast cancer and 84% for cervical cancer during April 2020 in comparison to the past 5-year averages for that month, the CDC reported recently. 

The study, published in the journal Preventive Medicine, analyzed COVID-19’s impact on the Early Detection Program’s screening services from January to June 2020. The study’s lead author said the data highlights a decline in cancer screening among women of racial and ethnic minority groups with low incomes at a time when their access to care decreased due to the pandemic’s beginning in the spring of 2020. 

In addition, the study found that Black and Hispanic women in the U.S. have the highest rates of cervical cancer deaths. For breast cancer, the incidence rate is highest and similar among White women and Black women, however, Black women have the highest rate of deaths due to breast cancer compared with White women.

“CDC encourages health care professionals to help minimize delays in testing by continuing routine cancer screening for women having symptoms or at high risk for breast or cervical cancer,” said Amy DeGroff, CDC health scientist and lead author. “The Early Detection Program can help women overcome barriers to health equity by educating them about the importance of routine screening, addressing their concerns about COVID-19 transmission, and helping them to safely access screening through interventions like patient navigation.”

The study reports that there is extensive evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of cervical and breast cancer screening in reducing cancer-related mortality. 

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