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Lessons Learned from Screenings Delayed During COVID-19


Cancer Screenings Drop During Pandemic

Early during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, public health groups recommended the delay of preventative healthcare, including cancer screenings, to minimize the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

According to the National Cancer Institute’s Population-based Research to Optimize the Screening Process (PROSPR) consortium, depending on the cancer type, routine cancer screenings fell by 62-96% 1. Breast cancer screenings saw the greatest decline, dropping a dramatic 96%. These numbers are corroborated by estimates from the Epic Health Research Network2, as well as by Google search trends that show a 76% decrease in search volume for terms related to established cancer screening tests during the early months of the pandemic3.

The Future of Preventative Cancer Care

The full impact of the pandemic-related pause in cancer screenings is still being studied. Early findings point to remote testing options as effective countermeasures to pandemic-related pauses in in-person tests, as demonstrated by high levels of remote screening achieved by at least one testing center during the pandemic1. At the onset of the pandemic, Natera continued to offer its genetic tests remotely through its nationwide mobile blood draw network and its4 online platform.

However, remote testing efforts need to be supplemented with safe environments for follow-up appointments. What this looks like in practice is unclear, particularly given the possibility that COVID-19 could become endemic.

Only time will determine the impact of delayed screening on patient outcomes.. Cancers often take several years to become clinically evident so it is possible that the consequences of the pause in cancer screenings will impact those at greatest risk. Even so, the data provided by this “natural experiment” can inform healthcare providers trying to determine how best to adapt their current practices.

Natera’s Virtual Support Services

Enabled by our online portal, Natera has united online ordering with mobile phlebotomy—to deliver an end-to-end remote testing option. This approach means providers can educate, order, track, and report without patients leaving the comfort of their home. Additionally, Natera’s board-certified genetic counselors are available to support patients with pre- and post-test genetic information sessions.

Natera understands that COVID-19 may also have impacted patients' ability to pay for genetic testing. If you have questions about cost, please call the Natera billing phone number at 1-844-384-2996 (8 am-7 pm CT M-F), or visit the Natera billing page. Please do not call the Natera billing phone number for questions about genetic counseling. You can schedule a complimentary information session with a board-certified genetic counselor here.


  1. National Cancer Institute’s PROSPR Consortium et al. Cancer Screening During the Coronavirus Disease-2019 Pandemic: A Perspective From the National Cancer Institute’s PROSPR Consortium. Gastroenterology. 2021 Mar;160(4):999-1002.
  2. Mast C & del Rio AM. Delayed Cancer Screenings—A Second Look., accessed April 23, 2021.
  3. Snyder A et al. Google search volume trends for cancer screening terms during the COVID-19 pandemic. J Med Screen. 2021 Mar 4:969141321999426.
  4. Natera Press Release., accessed April 23, 2021.