New Australian COVID-19 data report shows sustained impact on the five most-commonly diagnosed cancers services and procedures by state and territory

Release Date

Cancer Australia has released the latest in a series of reports analysing for the first time the significance of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on cancer-related medical services and procedures for the five most-commonly diagnosed cancers in Australia. The data breaks down national, state and territory data for breast, colorectal, lung, prostate and skin cancers to September 2020.

Comparing the total number of national services provided in January to September 2020 to the same period in 2019, there were:

  • Around 78,000 (15%) fewer colonoscopies and sigmoidoscopies
  • Around 52,000 (10%) fewer annual PSA tests
  • Around 3,000 (6%) fewer melanoma surgeries
  • Around 680 (6%) fewer mastectomy and breast cancer surgeries 

”Cancer Australia conducted this analysis to understand where any reductions in cancer-related services have occurred, and the types of services that were affected. We know that delays in cancers being diagnosed, or cancers being diagnosed at a later stage, may lead to poorer cancer outcomes,” said Professor Dorothy Keefe, CEO Cancer Australia.

“Cancer Australia has previously reported notable reductions in services during the initial COVID-19 period of March to May 2020 for all five cancers, with some services showed initial recovery in May, and many services showing partial or full recovery in numbers by June 2020.”

“Recovery was observed by September 2020 for some but not all cancer-related services, with surgical excision of melanoma, breast cancer surgeries and colorectal surgeries not yet fully recovered to March levels by September,”

“Reductions in cancer procedures were seen in all states and territories in the initial COVID-19 period (March to May 2020). Similarly, recovery was observed for all jurisdictions by September 2020, but the extent of this recovery was not uniform for all jurisdictions or for all cancers.  

Of particular interest are the decreases which occurred during the second wave of COVID-19 in Victoria, where additional decreases were observed from July to September 2020 for surgeries for breast cancer, colorectal cancer, prostate cancer and melanoma, with services 15-32% lower in September than in March 2020. Partial to full recovery was observed in the other jurisdictions.”

National and jurisdictional data on the impact of COVID-19 on medical services and procedures in Australia: Breast, colorectal, lung, prostate and skin cancers report provides a national summary and a jurisdictional breakdown of MBS cancer-related services data from January to September 2020.

The report builds on the series of reports undertaken by Cancer Australia on the impact of the pandemic on cancer services.

“I would remind everyone it’s really important to know your body and know the symptoms to look out for. Most symptoms are due to something less serious than cancer, but if it is cancer, the earlier it is found, the better. Our Cancer Won’t Wait video campaign encourages you to continue with your health appointments and see a doctor if there are changes to your body that are unusual for  you.”

Visit the information hub  about cancer and the COVID-19 pandemic for people affected by cancer, health professionals and researchers.