Prostate Biopsy and Prostate Cancer Diagnoses Down During COVID-19 Pandemic

Prostate biopsy and prostate cancer (PC) diagnosis rates decreased during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a study published this month in JAMA Oncology.

In this retrospective analysis, researchers sought to determine the association between the pandemic and prostate biopsy and PC diagnosis rates among Black vs White patients. They assessed all prostate biopsies performed on 51,606 patients in the Veterans Affairs Health Care System (VAHCS) without a preexisting PC diagnosis between January 2018 and March 2021. The population of interest had at least one visit to the VAHCS during the three years prior to each month of the study. The primary outcomes of interest were defined as the number of prostate biopsies and PC diagnoses by month.

According to the results, pre-pandemic (January 2018 through February 2020), monthly biopsy numbers among the study group ranged between 1,230 and 1,695, of which 56% to 60% of results were positive for PC. The researchers observed that these numbers would drop appreciably, as they estimated number of missed PC diagnoses from March 2020 through March 2021 ranged from 97 cases (October 2020: 752 cases expected, 655 cases observed) to 573 cases (April 2020: 794 cases expected, 221 cases observed). As it relates to race, biopsy rates were statistically significantly higher among Black vs White men (incidence rate ratio, 2.25; 95% CI, 2.06-2.46; P < .001). However, there was no change in biopsy rates associated with race at the onset of the pandemic nor during the recovery period from March 2020 to March 2021. Similar trends were observed for PC diagnosis rate, the researchers noted.

The researchers concluded that the findings of this study “demonstrate that during the COVID-19 pandemic, prostate biopsy and PC diagnosis rates decreased, particularly during the peak of the pandemic. However, there were no statistically significant changes in rates by race.”