Purpose: The COVID-19 pandemic has placed unprecedented demands on the health system. This led to delays in the initiation and completion of cancer treatment. We assessed the long-term health consequences because of the delay in diagnosis and treatment for cervical cancer due to COVID-19 in India.
Methods: We used a Markov-model-based analysis assessing the lifetime health outcomes of the cohort of women population at risk from cervical cancer in India. The decrease in survival for those with the treatment interruption was calculated based on the number of days the treatment was extended beyond the standard duration. Furthermore, to model the impact of late diagnosis and delayed treatment initiation, the patients were assumed to have upstaged during the delay period, as per natural progression of disease.
Results: We estimate 2.52% (n = 795) to 3.80% (n = 2,160) lifetime increase in the deaths caused by cervical cancer with treatment restrictions ranging from 9 weeks to 6 months, respectively, as compared to no delay. On the contrary, 88-238 deaths because of COVID-19 disease are estimated to be saved during this restriction period among the patients with cervical cancer. Overall, the excess mortality because of cervical cancer led to 18,159-53,626 life-years being lost and an increase of 16,808-50,035 disability-adjusted life-years.
Conclusion: Delays in diagnosis and treatment are likely to lead to more cervical cancer deaths as compared to COVID-19 mortality averted among the patients with cervical cancer. Health systems must reorganize in terms of priority setting for provision of care, starting with prioritizing the treatment of patients with early-stage cervical cancer, increasing use of teleconsultation, and strengthening the role of primary care physicians in provision of cancer care.