COVID-19 Negatively Affected Most Aspects of Cancer Care

The study covered in this summary was published on as a preprint and has not yet been peer reviewed.

Key Takeaway

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative effect on cancer treatments, screenings, and diagnoses as well as patients’ psychosocial well-being, including an increase in symptoms of depression and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Why This Matter

  • Throughout the pandemic, studies have identified disruptions in cancer screenings, treatment, and diagnoses as well as effects on the psychological well-being of patients. These studies have covered a range of periods and outcomes.

  • In the current study, researchers performed a systematic literature review to assess the evidence as a whole and to provide a broader look at how the pandemic disrupted different aspects of cancer care.

Study Design

  • Researchers performed an umbrella review of 45 systematic reviews of studies published before November 29, 2022, that evaluated different aspects of cancer care during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • AMSTAR-2 was used to appraise the methodologic rigor of the reviews included in the analysis.

Key Results

  • Overall, 45 systematic reviews were included in the analysis.

  • Of these, 13 reviews reported treatment delays and cancellations of cancer treatment, which were most notable during lockdowns. One study found that treatment shortages, delays, and interruptions were generally more common in low- or middle-income countries.

  • Eleven reviews reported on cancer screening. Overall, reviews showed a decline in screening rates across all cancer types. The most pronounced decline (~51%) was in regard to cervical cancer screening, though colorectal (~43%) and breast cancer (~44%) screening rates also declined.

  • Eleven reviews reported changes in cancer treatment, specifically, the downscaling of treatment plans. One study, for instance, reported changes in treatment plans in almost two thirds of centers.

  • A dozen studies reported that the pandemic negatively affected cancer survivors’ and patients’ psychosocial well-being. PTSD symptoms increased by approximately 27%, depression by around 37%, and the fear of cancer progression by about 68%.

  • Reviews consistently reported decreased diagnoses of new cancer cases during the pandemic. Countries that implemented lockdowns showed the highest reduction in new cancer diagnoses.


  • Authors only searched one database, PubMed, potentially missing other relevant studies.

  • Some results were derived from a single study or studies with small sample sizes and a limited number of events.

  • Many of the systematic reviews did not have prepandemic controls.

  • There was some overlap in evidence among the systematic reviews.


  • No funding was provided for the study.

  • The authors did not disclose any conflicts of interest.

This is a summary of a preprint research study, “Changes in Cancer Prevention and Management and Patient Needs During the COVID-19 Pandemic: An Umbrella Review of Systematic Reviews.” The study has not been peer reviewed. The full text can be found at

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