Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on cancer healthcare utilization in southwestern China on March 2021

Peiyi Li, Yajuan Zhu, Yaqiang Wang, Xiaoyu Liu, Xiang Fang, Yuanxin Hou, Rujun Zheng, Junying Li, Bo Zhang, Zhuo Chen, Chengdi Wang, Tao Zhu, Weimin Li, Xuesong Han

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review


Background: Oncological care has been disrupted worldwide during the COVID-19 pandemic. We aimed to quantify the long-term impact of the pandemic on cancer care utilization and to examine how this impact varied by sociodemographic and clinical factors in southwestern China, where the Dynamic Zero-COVID Strategy was implemented. This strategy mainly included lockdowns, stringent testing, and travel restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Method: We identified 859,497 episodes of the utilization of cancer care from electronic medical records between January 1, 2019, and March 31, 2021, from the cancer center of a tertiary hospital serving an estimated population of 8.4 million in southwestern China. Changes in weekly utilization were evaluated via segmented Poisson regression across service categories, stratified by cancer type and sociodemographic factors. Results: A sharp reduction in utilization of in-person cancer services occurred during the first week of the pandemic outbreak in January 2020, followed by a quick rebound in February 2020. Although there were few COVID-19 cases from March 2020 until this analysis, the recovery of most in-person services was slow and remained incomplete as of March 31, 2021. The exceptions were outpatient radiation and surgery, which increased and exceeded pre-pandemic levels, particularly among lung cancer patients; meanwhile, telemedicine utilization increased substantially after the onset of the pandemic. Care disruptions were most prominent for women, rural residents, uninsured, and breast cancer patients. Conclusions: As of March 2021, despite few COVID-19 cases, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a strong and continuing impact on in-person oncology care utilization in southwestern China under the Dynamic Zero-COVID Strategy. Equitable and timely access to cancer care requires adjustment in strict policies for COVID-19 prevention and control, as well as targeted remedies for the most vulnerable populations during and beyond the pandemic. Future studies should monitor the long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and response strategies on cancer care and outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13821-13833
Number of pages13
JournalCancer Medicine
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023


  • COVID-19
  • cancer care disparities
  • cancer care utilization
  • southwestern China

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Cancer Research


Dive into the research topics of 'Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on cancer healthcare utilization in southwestern China on March 2021'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this