Following the necessary measures taken to curb the spread of the COVID-19, imminent policy concerns have been raised about the impact of these measures on timely cancer diagnosis. Several countries have reported worrisome declines in diagnostic procedures and cancer diagnoses following the unprecedented pandemic.
A model was developed to estimate population-level health economic outcomes of 3- and 6-months delays in time to treatment initiation due to the pandemic in Australia. For the 4 cancers (stage I breast, lung, colorectal cancer and T1 melanoma) included, 88 excess deaths and $12 million excess health care costs were projected over 5 years for a 3-month delay. For a 6-month delay, expected excess costs and mortality were $46 million and 349, respectively. These results are indicative of the potential impact of health service disruptions due to COVID-19 on cancer outcomes.
Time between diagnosis and start of treatment should, if possible, be minimized to prevent compounding effects of delayed care and diagnosis—it is essential as delayed cancer diagnoses lead to potential stage progress where it is more likely to be fatal. Though these results are preliminary, they create awareness for policy interventions, especially the necessity to manage the backlog within routine diagnostic care to alleviate the anticipated impact of the COVID-19 on cancer patients.