Study Finds Decline in Breast Cancer Screening Rates in Low-Income Communities During COVID-19 Pandemic

A new study finds that during the COVID-19 pandemic, breast cancer screening rates (BCSRs) have declined in the United States among women in lower income populations aged 50 to 74 years old. The results were published by the American Cancer Society (ACS). This marked one of the first studies to assess BCSRs among lower-income populations since the pandemic started, the ACS noted. The study analyzed BCSRs among 32 community health centers that provide health services to communities of color and lower income populations. According to the results, if 2018 to 2019 BCSR trends continued through 2020, over 63% of women would have been screened for breast cancer in 2020 compared to the approximately 50% (49.6%) of women that did get screened. This data translates to potentially 47,517 fewer mammograms and 242 missed breast cancer diagnoses, according to the ACS.   “This study is important because these populations have long-standing barriers to accessing care, lower breast screening rates, higher breast cancer mortality rates, and are especially vulnerable to healthcare disruptions,” said lead investigator Stacey Fedewa, PhD of the American Cancer Society via a ACS press release. “Declining breast cancer screening rates in clinics serving communities with lower-incomes that already have barriers to accessing healthcare and have higher breast cancer mortality rates means there is a need for additional policies to support and resources to identify women in need of screening,” said the authors. “These actions will be critical as communities and clinics return to screening with hopes of reaching pre-pandemic breast cancer screening rates in the communities they serve.”