Screening Mammography Recovery After COVID-19 Pandemic Facility Closures: Associations of Facility Access and Racial and Ethnic Screening Disparities

AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2022 Jun;218(6):988-996. doi: 10.2214/AJR.21.26890. Epub 2021 Nov 24.


BACKGROUND. Screening mammography facilities closed during the COVID-19 pandemic in spring 2020. Recovery of screening volumes has varied across patient subgroups and facilities. OBJECTIVE. We compared screening mammography volumes and patient and facility characteristics between periods before COVID-19 and early and later postclosure recovery periods. METHODS. This retrospective study included screening mammograms performed in the same 2-month period (May 26-July 26) in 2019 (pre-COVID-19), 2020 (early recovery), and 2021 (late recovery after targeted interventions to expand access) and across multiple facility types (urban, suburban, community health center). Suburban sites had highest proportion of White patients and the greatest scheduling flexibility and expanded appointments during initial reopening. Findings were compared across years. RESULTS. For White patients, volumes decreased 36.6% from 6550 in 2019 (4384 in 2020) and then increased 61.0% to 6579 in 2021; for patients with races other than White, volumes decreased 53.9% from 1321 in 2019 (609 in 2020) and then increased 136.8% to 1442 in 2021. The percentage of mammograms in patients with races other than White was 16.8% in 2019, 12.2% in 2020, and 18.0% in 2021. The proportion performed at the urban center was 55.3% in 2019, 42.2% in 2020, and 45.9% in 2021; the proportion at suburban sites was 34.0% in 2019, 49.2% in 2020, and 43.5% in 2021. Pre-COVID-19 volumes were reached by the sixth week after reopening for suburban sites but were not reached during early recovery for the other sites. The proportion that were performed on Saturday for suburban sites was similar across periods, whereas the proportion performed on Saturday for the urban site was 7.6% in 2019, 5.3% in 2020, and 8.8% in 2021; the community health center did not offer Saturday appointments during recovery. CONCLUSION. After reopening, screening shifted from urban to suburban settings, with a disproportionate screening decrease in patients with races other than White. Initial delayed access at facilities serving underserved populations exacerbated disparities. Interventions to expand access resulted in late recovery volumes exceeding prepandemic volumes in patients with races other than White. CLINICAL IMPACT. Interventions to support equitable access across facilities serving diverse patient populations may mitigate potential widening disparities in breast cancer diagnosis during the pandemic.

Keywords: COVID-19; equity; mammography; screening.

MeSH terms

  • Architectural Accessibility
  • Breast Neoplasms* / diagnostic imaging
  • COVID-19*
  • Early Detection of Cancer
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mammography / methods
  • Mass Screening
  • Pandemics
  • Retrospective Studies