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The impact of COVID-19 on cancer services


Cancer Australia has undertaken an analysis of MBS data on cancer-related medical services and procedures to understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on cancer.

Substantial reductions in medical services and procedures relating to cancer investigations and treatment have been reported by service providers in Australia in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cancer Australia has undertaken an analysis of a range of services reimbursed through the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) for the months January 2020 to September 2020 to understand where any reductions in cancer-related services have occurred, and the types of services affected. Data were examined both at a national level and by jurisdiction.

Analyses focussed on:

  • MBS item numbers for cancer-related diagnostic and treatment procedures
  • New telehealth MBS items available during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The findings are published in the following reports:

Analyses showed national reductions in total monthly services for diagnostic and therapeutic procedures during the initial COVID-19 period between March and May 2020 for these five cancers. The monthly data for some services showed an initial recovery in May, with many services showing partial or full recovery in numbers by June 2020, and further recovery by September 2020 for some but not all services. Similar patterns of change were observed across all states and territories, with some variation by jurisdiction.