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Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on fecal immunochemical testing, colonoscopy services, and colorectal neoplasia detection in a large United States community-based population

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected clinical services globally, including colorectal cancer (CRC) screening and diagnostic testing. We investigated the pandemic’s impact on fecal immunochemical test (FIT) screening, colonoscopy utilization, and colorectal neoplasia detection across 21 medical centers in a large integrated health care organization. We performed a retrospective cohort study in Kaiser Permanente Northern California patients ages 18 to 89 years in 2019 and 2020 and measured changes in the numbers of mailed, completed, and positive FITs; colonoscopies; and cases of colorectal neoplasia detected by colonoscopy in 2020 vs 2019. FIT kit mailings ceased in mid-March through April 2020 but then rebounded and there was an 8.7% increase in kits mailed compared with 2019. With the later mailing of FIT kits, there were 9.0% fewer FITs completed and 10.1% fewer positive tests in 2020 vs 2019. Colonoscopy volumes declined 79.4% in April 2020 compared with April 2019 but recovered to near pre-pandemic volumes in September through December, resulting in a 26.9% decline in total colonoscopies performed in 2020. The number of patients diagnosed by colonoscopy with CRC and advanced adenoma declined by 8.7% and 26.9%, respectively, in 2020 vs 2019. The pandemic led to fewer FIT screenings and colonoscopies in 2020 vs 2019; however, after the lifting of shelter-in-place orders, FIT screenings exceeded, and colonoscopy volumes nearly reached numbers from those same months in 2019. Overall, there was an 8.7% reduction in CRC cases diagnosed by colonoscopy in 2020. These data may help inform the development of strategies for CRC screening and diagnostic testing during future national emergencies.

Authors: Lee, Jeffrey K; Li, Dan; Corley, Douglas A; Levin, Theodore R; et al.

Gastroenterology. 2022 09;163(3):723-731.e6. Epub 2022-05-14.

PubMed abstract

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