Changes in Stage at Presentation among Lung and Breast Cancer Patients During the COVID-19 Pandemic

J Am Coll Surg. 2023 Jun 1;236(6):1164-1170. doi: 10.1097/XCS.0000000000000656. Epub 2023 Feb 17.


Background: The COVID-19 pandemic altered access to healthcare by decreasing the number of patients able to receive preventative care and cancer screening. We hypothesized that, given these changes in access to care, radiologic screening for breast and lung cancer would be decreased, and patients with these cancers would consequently present at later stages of their disease.

Study design: This is a retrospective cross-sectional study of 2017 to September 2021 UMass Memorial Tumor Registry data for adult breast and lung cancer patients. Changes in stage at presentation of breast and lung cancer during the COVID-19 pandemic were measured, defined as before and during COVID-19.

Results: There were no statistically significant changes in the overall stage of presentation before or during the COVID-19 pandemic for either breast or lung cancer patients. Analysis of case presentation and stage during periods of COVID-19 surges that occurred during the time of this study compared with prepandemic data demonstrated a statistically significant decrease in overall presentation of breast cancer patients in the first surge, with no other statistically significant changes in breast cancer presentation. A nonstatistically significant decrease in lung cancer presentation was seen during the initial surge of COVID-19. There was also a statistically significant increase in early-stage presentation of lung cancer during the second and third COVID-19 surges.

Conclusions: In the 2 years after the COVID-19 pandemic, we were not able to demonstrate stage migration at presentation of breast and lung cancer patients to later stages despite decreases in overall presentation during the initial 2 years of the COVID pandemic. An increase in early-stage lung cancer during the second and third surges is interesting and could be related to increased chest imaging for COVID pneumonia.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Breast Neoplasms* / diagnosis
  • Breast Neoplasms* / epidemiology
  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung
  • Lung Neoplasms* / diagnosis
  • Lung Neoplasms* / epidemiology
  • Pandemics / prevention & control
  • Retrospective Studies