Breast cancer and cervical cancer screenings on the decline


According to data from the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, the total number of cancer screening tests declined 87% for breast cancer and 84% for cervical cancer during April 2020.

The data was compared to the previous 5-year averages for that month.

The study, published in the journal Preventive Medicine1, noted that these declines were related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and may lead to delayed diagnoses, poor health consequences, and an increase in cancer disparities among women already experiencing health equities.

When asked about the importance of the data, lead author and CDC health scientist Amy DeGroff, PhD, MPH said, “This study highlights a decline in cancer screening among women of racial and ethnic minority groups with low incomes when their access to medical services decreased at the beginning of the pandemic. They reinforce the need to safely maintain routine health care services during the pandemic, especially when the health care environment meets COVID-19 safety guidelines.”

The study also analyzed the impact of COVID-19 on the Early Detection Program’s screening services from January to June 2020. The report detailed additional findings related to health equity:

  • Declines in breast cancer screening varied from 84% among Hispanic women and 98% among American Indian/Alaskan Native women.
  • Declines in cervical cancer screening varied from 82% among Black women to 92% among Asian Pacific Islander women.
  • In April of 2020, the number of breast cancer screening tests for breast cancer declined by 86% in metropolitan areas and 89% in rural areas, compared to the respective five-year averages. Cervical cancer screening tests declined by 85% and 82% for metropolitan and rural areas, respectively, and 77% for urban areas.


  1. Degroff A, Miller J, Sharma K, et al. COVID-19 impact on screening test volume through the National Breast and Cervical Cancer early detection program, January–June 2020, in the United States. Preventive Medicine. 2021;151:106559. doi:10.1016/j.ypmed.2021.106559
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