Battisti F, Falini P, Gorini G, Sassoli de Bianchi P, Armaroli P, Giubilato P, Giorgi Rossi P, Zorzi M, Battagello J, Senore C, Zappa M, Mantellini P.

Ann Ist Super Sanita. 2022 Jan-Mar;58(1):16-24. doi: 10.4415/ANN_22_01_03.


Introduction: In Italy, regional governments are in charge of implementing cervical, breast and colorectal cancer screening programmes. The 2020 Coronavirus pandemic led to a national lockdown and the temporary suspension of several non-urgent healthcare activities, including cancer screening. This paper aims to describe the results of a national survey carried out by the National Centre for Screening Monitoring (ONS) on cervical, breast and colorectal cancer screening activities in 2020.

Materials and methods: A national survey was conducted by ONS in 2020 to assess: the number of screening invitations by Region; the volumes of screening tests and the attitude to attend the screening programme compared to 2019; the number of delayed diagnoses of malignant or pre-malignant lesions caused by the slowing down of screening programmes, based on the average Region-specific screening detection rate for cervical, breast and colorectal cancers.

Results: Screening tests for breast, colorectal and cervical cancer decreased by 37.6%, 45.5% and 43.4% in 2020 compared with 2019. In 2020 the estimated numbers of undiagnosed lesions are: 3,324 breast cancers, 1,299 colorectal cancers, 7,474 colorectal advanced adenomas and 2,782 CIN2 or more severe cervical lesions. Participation in cancer screening programmes decreased by 15%, 15% and 20%, for cervical, breast and CRC screening, respectively.

Discussion and conclusions: An urgent call to action is needed to prevent further delays and to limit the impact of the pandemic on cancer diagnosis and prevention.