The COVID-19 pandemic had a severe, global effect on breast screening efforts. Imaging centres had to close or operate at a vastly reduced capacity, causing a staggering number of women to miss their planned screening rounds. In the United States, for example, data suggests that up to 14% of these women may be recalled for further investigation1, and 0.5% may actually have breast cancer2.
Although in many places extra safety measures were then put in place to allow services to reopen, many providers were only able to operate at significantly reduced capacity. Of course, it isn’t just the mounting number of missed screenings that’s an issue – the resulting delay in diagnosis is the real problem facing doctors and patients. Typically, the longer it takes to spot a cancer, the worse the outcome for the woman, the screening service provider and the payer. This may include:
In fact, The American Cancer Society (ACS) found that the five-year survival rate for women receiving an early-stage (localised) breast cancer diagnosis is 99%3. When diagnosis occurs at the regional stage, survivorship falls to 86% – and then again to 28% at the distant stage4. Then there’s the 2020 Swedish study5, which concluded with lead co-authors, László Tabár of Falun Central Hospital, Sweden, and Stephen Duffy of Queen Mary Hospital, UK, reporting:
“Some may believe that recent improvements in breast cancer treatment makes early detection less important. Our study shows that nothing can replace finding breast cancer early.6”
When it comes to survival, therefore, delays such as those caused by COVID-19 can have a hugely detrimental effect.
The resulting backlog of unscheduled mammograms has had a knock-on effect on the entire screening pathway. Booking women in for their missed mammograms is one problem – getting the results read quickly and accurately is another. For patients, too, what was already a stressful experience is now more isolating than ever, and can take far longer too. Both factors may well deter more women from attending screenings in the long run.
There is a way forward. At Kheiron Medical, we’re harnessing the power of AI to help radiologists detect breast cancer earlier and achieve better patient outcomes. When combined with human expertise, our powerful, deep learning neural networks can help radiology departments become more effective and efficient.
Find out more about your challenges – and our solutions – in our eBook, ‘A better way forward for breast screening: Revolutionising breast imaging and cancer detection with AI’.
Download your copy today. And join the AI revolution.
1https://www.diagnosticimaging.com/view/the-mammography-sweet-spot-recall-rate-is-lower-than-suggested and https://www.ajronline.org/doi/abs/10.2214/AJR.19.22429?utm_source=informz&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=roentgen%20journal
3Living with breast cancer: Statistics on survival rates by stage (medicalnewstoday.com)
4Survival Rates for Breast Cancer
5Mammography screening reduces rates of advanced and fatal breast cancers: Results in 549,091 women – Duffy – 2020 – Cancer – Wiley Online Library
6Early mammography screening remains key even as breast cancer treatment advances (healthimaging.com)