Harvey W. Kaufman, MD, MBA, FCAP Senior Medical Director, Medical Informatics Quest Diagnostics Needham, MA

Dramatic Drop in Newly Diagnosed Cancers During COVID Pandemic

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Harvey W. Kaufman, MD, MBA, FCAP Senior Medical Director, Medical Informatics Quest Diagnostics Needham, MA

Harvey Kaufman

Harvey W. Kaufman, MD, MBA, FCAP
Senior Medical Director, Medical Informatics
Quest Diagnostics
Needham, MA 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted routine healthcare and in particular cancer screenings.  We documented the impact on patients who were newly identified by cancer in the early months of the pandemic by analysis of Quest Diagnostics data.

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings? 

Response: We saw a 46% decline in newly identified patients with six common types of cancer.  In accordance to healthcare recommendations, many patients didn’t receive mammograms, colonoscopies, low-dose CT scans, and avoided physician visits for minor complaints.  When these patients return, some will present with more advanced stages of cancer than they would have without the disruption of the pandemic. 

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Whereas our lives took a break, cancer doesn’t pause.  The need for screening tests to detect cancer is always vital to our health, to detect cancers before symptoms present, at an early stage.  Minor symptoms that are unexplained need to be investigated.  Whenever there is an opportunity, healthcare professionals must find ways to engage with patients so we can all receive the appropriate screening and healthcare services necessary for cancer diagnosis and treatment.  Extra and creative efforts are needed to provide appropriate healthcare to all whom may benefit.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work? 

Response: Healthcare offices and clinics are resuming visits in safe environments yet many patients are still concerned about obtaining routine healthcare.  Are we reaching out to all patients in our communities?  We must continue to monitor healthcare screenings including new cancer diagnoses in patients of all ages and diverse groups.  Looking at any shift in cancer staging will be a sign that the pandemic adversely disrupted routine healthcare.  And finally, analysis of cancer deaths will be likely be another toll from the pandemic.

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add? 

Response: Cancer screening are effective in identifying new cancers as well as routine healthcare examinations.  For decades we made great progress with many types of cancer.  We must work together in the challenging time of the COVID-19 pandemic to reach patients and find ways to deliver healthcare that protects and saves lives.


Kaufman HW, Chen Z, Niles J, Fesko Y. Changes in the Number of US Patients With Newly Identified Cancer Before and During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic. JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(8):e2017267. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.17267

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Last Updated on August 4, 2020 by Marie Benz MD FAAD