Pandemic Lockdown Restrictions Results in Poor Colon Cancer Diagnosis



Recently published data documents that patients diagnosed with metastatic colorectal cancer after last year’s COVID-19 lockdown had poorer results than others.

Study: Delaying CRC Diagnosis Increased Tumor Burden

According to research published Sept. 8 in JAMA Network Open, patients diagnosed with metastatic colorectal cancer after the country's first COVID-19 lockdown in spring 2020 had a higher burden of tumor cells compared to those diagnosed before the lockdown.

In the analysis, 40 people were screened before and 40 people were screened after the first COVID-19 lockdown in France.

"To our knowledge, this study was the first to assess the association between COVID-19 restrictions and delayed treatment and diagnostic services for a specific cancer," the researchers noted in an article published in Becker's Hospital Review.

The study analyzed data collected during the enrollment phase for a phase 2 clinical trial.

Researchers found that individuals diagnosed with metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC) after the lockdown exhibited a burden of tumor tissue cells nearly seven times higher than those diagnosed before the pandemic.

In addition, the median survival decreased from 20 months to just less than 15 months in patients with a higher tumor burden.

"The tumor burden of colorectal cancer varied and appeared to be associated with poor survival for those who received a post lockdown diagnosis, suggesting that this cancer is a major area for intervention to minimize COVID-19-associated diagnostic delay," researchers said in Medscape.

Don’t Delay Colon Cancer Screening

Delaying treatment and diagnostic services, like colonoscopy, can lead to poor outcomes for colorectal cancer patients.

"Delayed screening very likely leads to advanced cancers, and it is highly likely that the pandemic raised the threshold that patients would seek medical care for subacute symptoms," said Theodore S. Hong, MD, director of gastrointestinal services at Mass General Cancer Center, Boston, Massachusetts in Medscape. "This is leading to many patients presenting with advanced gastrointestinal cancers."

Colon cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in the United States. The American Cancer Society’s recommendation for baseline colon cancer screenings is 45 for all adults at average risk for colon cancer, so you may be due for a screening. Patients with digestive symptoms which might be due to colon cancer should be promptly evaluated, regardless of age.

Colonoscopy is the gold standard for colorectal cancer screening because the procedure can both detect and remove precancerous polyps before they become cancer.

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