Background: Population breast screening services in England were suspended in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Here, we estimate the number of breast cancers whose detection may be delayed because of the suspension, and the potential impact on cancer deaths over 10 years.
Methods: We estimated the number and length of screening delays from observed NHS Breast Screening System data. We then estimated additional breast cancer deaths from three routes: asymptomatic tumours progressing to symptomatically diagnosed disease, invasive tumours which remain screen-detected but at a later date, and ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) progressing to invasive disease by detection. We took progression rates, prognostic characteristics, and survival rates from published sources.
Results: We estimated that 1,489,237 women had screening delayed by around 2–7 months between July 2020 and June 2021, leaving 745,277 outstanding screens. Depending on how quickly this backlog is cleared, around 2500–4100 cancers would shift from screen-detected to symptomatic cancers, resulting in 148–452 additional breast cancer deaths. There would be an additional 164–222 screen-detected tumour deaths, and 71–97 deaths from DCIS that progresses to invasive cancer.
Conclusions: An estimated 148–687 additional breast cancer deaths may occur as a result of the pandemic-related disruptions. The impact depends on how quickly screening services catch up with delays.
|Number of pages||7|
|Journal||British Journal of Cancer|
|Early online date||2 Feb 2022|
|Publication status||Published - 18 May 2022|
Bibliographical noteFunding Information: SWD and DV’s contribution to this work was part-funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Policy Research Programme, conducted through the Policy Research Unit in Cancer Awareness, Screening and Early Diagnosis, PR-PRU-1217-21601. The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NIHR, UK NSC, NHS or the Department of Health and Social Care.
FS and AM are employed by the UK National Screening Committee (UK NSC), hosted at the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities within the Department of Health and Social Care. MP, JW and OK were employed by Public Health England during this project and are now employed by NHS England and NHS Improvement. All other authors declare no competing interest.
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Publisher Copyright: © 2022, The Author(s).
Citation: Duffy, S.W., Seedat, F., Kearins, O. et al. The projected impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on breast cancer deaths in England due to the cessation of population screening: a national estimation. Br J Cancer 126, 1355–1361 (2022).