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By Robert Preidt
Health Day reporter

TUESDAY, Aug.31, 2021 (HealthDay News) – Many parts of the United States have seen a significant drop in breast cancer screening among low-income older women during the COVID-19 pandemic, new research shows.

Analysis of data from 32 community health centers that serve low-income people found that breast cancer screening among women aged 50 to 74 dropped by 8% between July 2019 and July 2020. That erased an increase of 18% between July 2018. and July 2019.

“This study is important because these populations have long-standing barriers to accessing care, lower breast cancer screening rates, higher breast cancer [death] and are particularly vulnerable to healthcare disruptions, ”said Stacey Fedewa, study leader, American Cancer Society.

If the trend from 2018 to 2019 had continued into 2020, around 63% of women would have been screened for breast cancer in 2020 instead of the nearly 50% of women who actually are, according to the study.

Drop in screening means the 32 centers potentially had 47,517 fewer mammograms and 242 missed breast cancer diagnoses, according to results published Aug. 26 in the journal Cancer.

The researchers noted that the study clinics were part of a grant from the American Cancer Society to improve breast cancer screening rates. It is not known how the pandemic affected testing services at community health centers nationwide.

Programs that were introduced before and continued until 2020 may have reduced the effects of the pandemic on breast cancer screening services, the study authors suggested.

Declining screening rates in clinics serving low-income areas with barriers to accessing health care and higher breast cancer death rates underscore the need for additional resources to identify women in need of care. ‘screening, the team noted in a press release.

“These actions will be essential as communities and clinics resume screening in the hopes of achieving pre-pandemic breast cancer screening rates in the communities they serve,” concluded Fedewa and colleagues.

More information

The National Cancer Institute of the United States has more information on breast cancer screening.

THE SOURCE: Cancer, press release, August 26, 2021

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