Covid-19 Pandemic Negatively Affects Cancer Screening for Women of Color

Substantially fewer breast cancer diagnoses were made during the COVID-19 pandemic from March through September 2020, disproportionately affecting Asian and Hispanic women followed by Black women, according to a study published in Radiology.

A team led by Dr. Kathryn Lowry from the University of Washington in Seattle found that the result wasn’t because of fewer cancers, but because the pandemic reduced the use of preventative services, such as mammograms, from the same period in 2019, reported Yee.

“‘[The screening deficit was] largest in Hispanic and Asian women, adding to existing evidence that the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted minoritized racial and ethnic groups,’ the authors wrote,” according to Yee.

In an editorial published simultaneously with the research Dr. Samantha Heller, an Associate Professor with the Department of Radiology at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, had, in part, this to say of the research led by Lowry:

“[The Lowry study] is, to our knowledge, the first observational (non-modeling) work to assess the effects of the pandemic on U.S. imaging-based breast cancer diagnosis directly. …The authors’ finding that the pandemic predominantly affected cancer yields for certain populations— Asian women—as well as Hispanics and Blacks, is especially troubling. The pandemic has exposed deep fault lines of inequity in our healthcare system. If the observed screening and cancer diagnosis gaps lead to longer-term prognostic consequences, then this may turn out to be yet another way in which the pandemic inequitably affects distinct groups. The findings of this study therefore serve as a wake-up call for action to ensure that all women of all races and ethnicities have the opportunity to return to timely screening.”


Kathryn P. Lowry, Michael Bissell, Diana L. Miglioretti, Karla Kerlikowske, Nila Alsheik, Tere Macarol, Erin J.A. Bowles, Diana S.M. Buist, Anna N.A. Tosteson, Louise Henderson, Sally D. Herschorn, Karen J. Wernli, Donald L. Weaver, Natasha K. Stout, and Brian L. Sprague. Breast Biopsy Recommendations and Breast Cancers Diagnosed during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Radiology. Published online October 19, 2021, at Accessed November 1, 2021.

Samantha L. Heller. Impact of the Pandemic on Breast Cancer Diagnoses. Radiology. Published online October 19, 2021, at Accessed November 1, 2021.

Yee, Kate. Fewer breast cancers seen in minority women during COVID-19. October 19, 2021, at Accessed November 1, 2021.