COVID-19 Impact

Between January 2020 and July 2020, there was an estimated 3.8 million colorectal cancer (CRC) screening deficit for the US population.1 The potential effects of the COVID-19 pandemic include reduced access to care, delayed routine care, later-stage diagnosis, and delayed or modified treatment.2 All of these effects have the potential to impact preventive screenings and cancer outcomes.  Utilization of a variety of CRC screening modalities has the potential to somewhat mitigate these impacts.6  Modeled data suggests that expanding FIT-based CRC screening would increase the number of eligible individuals completing screening by 20 to 25% during the COVID-19 pandemic.3

CRC Screening of patients fell by nearly 85% in April of 2020 when compared to April of 20194

The COVID-19 pandemic impacts include reduced access to care, delayed routine care, later-stage diagnosis, and delayed or modified treatment2


Line graph showing CRC screening rates among health plan enrollees


Table capturing COVID-19 Impacts on cancer screening 


  • Delayed cancer diagnosis can lead to more advanced cancer before detection. One study estimates that over 80,000 cancer diagnoses could be missed or delayed as a result of the disruption to healthcare associated with COVID-19.5


Chen RC, Haynes K, Barron J, et al. Association of cancer screening deficit in the United States with the COVID-19 pandemic. JAMA Oncol. 2021;7(6):878–884.

American Cancer Society. Colorectal cancer facts & figures 2020-2022. Atlanta: American Cancer Society; 2020.

Issaka RB, Taylor P, Baxi A, et al. Model-based estimation of colorectal cancer screening and outcomes during the COVID-19 pandemic. JAMA Netw Open. 2021;4:e216454.

London JW, Fazio-Eynullayeva E, Palchuck MB, et al. Effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on cancer-related patient encounters. JCO Clin Cancer Informatics. 2020;4:657-665.

IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science. Shifts in healthcare demand, delivery and care during the COVID-19 era. April 2020. Accessed March 24, 2023. 

6 NCCRT. Reigniting colorectal cancer screening as communities face and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. June 30, 2020. Accessed November 9, 2020. 


The HealthCore Integrated Research Database (HIRD) covers ~60 M people in Medicare Advantage and commercial health plans in geographically diverse regions. The receipt of cancer screening was identified with ICD-10-CM and CRC screening CPT codes. Screening rates were analyzed and compared for each month (2019 vs 2020) and used to calculate the estimated total deficit for the entire US population.

Last Updated: 3/24/2023