COVID-19 related change in breast cancer diagnosis, stage, treatment, and case volume: 2019-2021.

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Breast cancer research and treatment


washington; swedish cancer; covid-19


PURPOSE: Evaluate the COVID-19 pandemic impact on breast cancer detection method, stage and treatment before, during and after health care restrictions.

METHODS: In a retrospective tertiary cancer care center cohort, first primary breast cancer (BC) patients, years 2019-2021, were reviewed (n = 1787). Chi-square statistical comparisons of detection method (patient (PtD)/mammography (MamD), Stage (0-IV) and treatment by pre-pandemic time 1: 2019 + Q1 2020; peak-pandemic time 2: Q2-Q4 2020; pandemic time 3: Q1-Q4 2021 (Q = quarter) periods and logistic regression for odds ratios were used.

RESULTS: BC case volume decreased 22% in 2020 (N = 533) (p = .001). MamD declined from 64% pre-pandemic to 58% peak-pandemic, and increased to 71% in 2021 (p < .001). PtD increased from 30 to 36% peak-pandemic and declined to 25% in 2021 (p < .001). Diagnosis of Stage 0/I BC declined peak-pandemic when screening mammography was curtailed due to lock-down mandates but rebounded above pre-pandemic levels in 2021. In adjusted regression, peak-pandemic stage 0/I BC diagnosis decreased 24% (OR = 0.76, 95% CI: 0.60, 0.96, p = .021) and increased 34% in 2021 (OR = 1.34, 95% CI: 1.06, 1.70, p = .014). Peak-pandemic neoadjuvant therapy increased from 33 to 38% (p < .001), primarily for surgical delay cases.

CONCLUSIONS: The COVID-19 pandemic restricted health-care access, reduced mammography screening and created surgical delays. During the peak-pandemic time, due to restricted or no access to mammography screening, we observed a decrease in stage 0/I BC by number and proportion. Continued low case numbers represent a need to re-establish screening behavior and staffing.

Clinical Institute


Clinical Institute

Women & Children




Infectious Diseases


Population Health