Public interest in cancer screening decreased early during the COVID-19 pandemic but soon returned to near baseline, according to a study published in Current Problems in Cancer.
The study authors noted that previous research showed a decline in the use of cancer screening during the COVID-19 pandemic. The aim of the current study was to determine public interest in undergoing cancer screening during this time.
The researchers used Google Trends (trends.google.com) to gauge public interest. Google Trends calculates the relative search interest (RSI) on a scale of 0-100, with 0 representing no interest and 100 representing peak interest.
The researchers assessed RSI for the following terms: “HPV,” “colonoscopy,” “mammogram,” and “Pap smear.” The period assessed was from September 6, 2015, through August 30, 2020.
Overall, the RSI for cancer screening tests decreased in March 2020 but increased back to near baseline by the end of May 2020.
From March 14 to May 17, the mean difference in RSI was -19.96 for HPV, -57.17 for colonoscopy, -40.46 for mammogram, and -26.83 for Pap smear.
Compared with actual screening usage published previously, the RSI in cancer screening tests was lower than expected. HPV was -40.47% lower than expected, colonoscopy was -64.33% lower, mammogram was -59.2% lower, and Pap smear was -43.66% lower than expected.
“Our study identified a sharp decline in public interest related to colonoscopies, mammography, HPV, and Pap smears corresponding with the onset of COVID-19, followed by a slow uptrend to baseline near the end of May,” the study authors concluded.
Greiner B, Tipton S, Nelson B, Hartwell M. Cancer screenings during the COVID-19 pandemic: an analysis of public interest trends. Curr Probl Cancer. Published online June 12, 2021. doi:10.1016/j.currproblcancer.2021.10076