Considerations to increase rates of breast cancer screening across populations

Am J Manag Care. 2022 Apr;28(3 Spec. No.):SP136-SP138. doi: 10.37765/ajmc.2022.88855. Epub 2022 Mar 14.

Abstract

Objectives: COVID-19 has caused considerable drops in utilization of breast cancer screening services during the pandemic, especially among certain racial and ethnic groups. Members of the Community Oncology Alliance (COA)-including the COA president, South Carolina oncologist Kashyap Patel, MD-have reported increases in patients, particularly those of color, presenting with stage III and IV cancer at diagnosis. According to data released by the Biden administration, more than 9.5 million recommended cancer screenings had been missed in the United States as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, as of February 2022. President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden, EdD, aim to address this in the 2022 revitalized Cancer Moonshot Initiative. The findings made by COA as well as by Avalere also suggest that the pandemic has exacerbated existing health care disparities.

Methods: Using a multipayer database, we analyzed breast cancer screening rates for 2 periods-March 1 to September 30, 2019, and March 1 to September 30, 2020-among Medicare fee-for-service (FFS), managed Medicaid, and commercial insurance beneficiaries to understand the potential impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on adherence to the US Preventive Services Task Force breast cancer screening recommendations, which are currently undergoing review. Screening rates were evaluated across 5 racial/ethnic groups and by payer type.

Results: Mean monthly mammogram screening rates among eligible White Medicare FFS beneficiaries dropped to 0.6% in April 2020, but these screening rates recovered to 6.5% by June 2020. Screening rates for eligible Black Medicare FFS beneficiaries recovered on a pace slightly slower than that of White beneficiaries, but more rapidly than that of other groups. By comparison, American Indian/Alaska Native beneficiaries had a mean monthly screening rate of 0.5% in April 2020, which recovered to 3.1% in June 2020; these were below 2019 screening rates of 4.2% for April and 3.9% for June. Differences in screening rates by payer type were also observed. Patients with commercial insurance had higher screening rates compared with those covered by Medicare FFS and managed Medicaid.

Conclusions: Our principal finding shows that mean breast cancer screening rates decreased in April 2020 across all payers, but recovery to prepandemic screening levels has occurred more slowly among certain racial and ethnic minority groups. Differences in recovery rates by payer type highlight a strong relationship between income level and screening utilization.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Breast Neoplasms* / diagnosis
  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Early Detection of Cancer
  • Ethnicity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Medicare
  • Minority Groups
  • Pandemics
  • United States