Screenings in time of a pandemic

Breast cancer screening
Screenings in time of a pandemic -

December 3rd, 2020

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, cancer screening [1], including breast cancer [2], has been significantly delayed.

The National Screening Observatory [3] monitored these delays, obtaining the data presented in the graphs below, which show, for each Region, the delays accumulated between January and September 2020, the number of unexamined women and an estimate of the lost diagnoses.

The delay in carrying out the screening accumulated more in the first months of the year, in correspondence with the lockdown, it then continued to accumulate, but at a slower rate.

On average, the accumulated delay is 3.9 standard months [4].

6 Regions, the Autonomous Province of Bolzano, Campania, Emilia-Romagna, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Umbria and Valle d'Aosta have made up for part of the delay; Tuscany and Veneto contained the additional delay after May to less than half a month.

* data relating to 3 USLs out of 5 - Graph 1. Accumulated delay in standard months.

These delays caused more than 600,000 screening exams to be skipped, equal to a reduction of 43.5% compared to the previous year.

For example, more than 150 thousand mammograms have been missed in Lombardy.

* data relating to 3 USLs out of 5 - Graph 2. Women not examined.

Consequence of the delays and missed examinations are the missed diagnoses of breast cancer, estimated at 2,793.

Lombardy records the highest number of diagnoses not made, more than 600.

* data relating to 3 USLs out of 5 - Graph 3. Estimation of diagnoses not carried out.

Source: Report on the resumption of screening - September 2020 (National Screening Observatory)

[1] A cancer screening test is a test that allows you to detect early stage cancer. In Italy there are currently three screening programs dedicated to breast, cervical and colorectal cancer.

[2] Breast screening consists of mammography, a radiological examination recommended for women over the age of 50 once every 2 years. It allows to identify breast lumps and tumors in the early stages.

[3] The National Screening Observatory was founded in 2001 and works as a technical tool to support both the Regions, for the implementation of screening programs, and the Ministry of Health, for the definition of operating procedures, monitoring and evaluation of programs.

[4] The number of months of activity required to make up for the accumulated delay if the program went at the same speed as the previous year, i.e. it examined the same number of people every month observed in 2019.