Breast cancer screenings near standstill during Covid-19, which could change future screening guidelines

GlobalData Healthcare 22 May 2020 (Last Updated May 22nd, 2020 09:38)

Breast cancer screenings near standstill during Covid-19, which could change future screening guidelines

Breast cancer typically presents no symptoms at an early stage when the disease can be treated most effectively. While home screenings can help patients identify potential signs of disease, mammography is key for diagnosing breast cancer. Annual mammography screenings in the United States discover over 250,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer each year. With annual breast cancer screenings delayed during the Covid-19 pandemic, tens of thousands of patients are put at risk with undiscovered and potentially fast-moving breast cancer. However, the results of widespread delays could support theories that screenings are overdone.

The mammography equipment market is estimated to be worth an approximate $2.3 billion USD, with the United States responsible for over a third of the market. There are aggressive patient education campaigns aimed at increasing the number of annual mammography screenings, and these have been successful at improving early detection rates. However, many doctors believe that breast cancer screening rates have been too aggressive in the past, leading to over-detection of benign tumours. Many argue that even the decline in breast cancer mortality was not the result of frequent screening, but because of improved treatment methodologies for malignant cancers.

As patients are forced to miss their annual breast cancer screenings due to Covid-19, researchers will be provided with a unique opportunity to examine the effect breast cancer screenings has on patient outcome. This could affect the mammography equipment market, which has exhibited strong growth in the past five years, but may not fully recover after the pandemic.