Cancer screenings during the COVID-19 pandemic: An analysis of public interest trends

This article was originally published here

Curr Probl Cancer. 2021 Jun 21:100766. doi: 10.1016/j.currproblcancer.2021.100766. Online ahead of print.

ABSTRACT

INTRODUCTION: The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has impacted breast, colon, prostate, and lung cancer screenings in the U.S. by decreasing screening numbers.​We believe multiple types of cancer screenings may have been impacted during the pandemic as a result of cancellations of elective procedures and patient fear of seeking cancer screenings during a pandemic and that Google Trends may be a marker to estimate screening usage.

METHODS: Google Trends (trends.google.com) was utilized to assess public interest in multiple cancer types. We then constructed a forecasting model to determine the expected search interest had the pandemic not occurred. We then compared our models to actual screening usage during the pandemic.

RESULTS: Public interest in cancer screenings decreased precipitously at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. We found that the Google Trends estimated the decrease in mammogram usage 25.8% below the actual value. Similarly, Google Trends estimated the decrease in colon cancer screening usage 9.7% below the true value.

DISCUSSION: We found the decrease in public interest in breast and colon cancer screenings slightly underestimated the actual screening usage numbers, suggesting Google Trends may be utilized as an indicator for human behavior regarding cancer screening, particularly with colon and breast cancer screenings. If the negative trend in cancer screening continues and missed screenings are not appropriately corrected for, socioeconomic and racial disparities in cancer diagnoses, morbidity, and mortality will widen.

PMID:34304883 | DOI:10.1016/j.currproblcancer.2021.100766