Bend but don't break: Experience of a diverse New York City lung cancer screening program during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic

Maximilian C. Stahl, Steven Shamah, Kapil Wattamwar, Andrea C. Furlani, Maria Serrano, Linda B. Haramati

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Rationale and objectives: The COVID-19 pandemic led to the national shutdown and subsequent reopening of cancer screening programs. Our diverse inner-city lung cancer screening program serves patients in the Bronx NY, which was severely affected by COVID-19, with the highest mortality in New York State in the spring of 2020. Staffing redeployment, quarantine protocols, increased safety measures, and changes in follow up resulted. The purpose of this study is to analyze the effect of the pandemic on lung cancer screening volumes during the first year of the pandemic. Methods and materials: Retrospective cohort comprised of all patients enrolled in our Bronx, NY lung cancer screening program from March 2019 to March 2021 who underwent LDCT or appropriate follow-up imaging. The pre-pandemic and pandemic period were defined as 3/28/2019 to 3/21/2020 and 3/22/2020 to 3/17/2021, respectively, dichotomized by the New York State lockdown. Results: 1218 exams were performed in the pre-pandemic period and 857 in the pandemic period, a 29.6% decrease. The percentage of exams performed on newly enrolled patients decreased from 32.7% to 13.8% (p < 0.001). Patients in the pre-pandemic period and pandemic period respectively had the following demographic breakdown: mean age 66.9 ± 5.9 vs 66.5 ± 6.0, women 51.9% vs 51.6%, White 20.7% vs 20.3%, Hispanic/Latino 42.0% vs 36.3%. There was no significant difference in Lung-RADS scores for pre-pandemic and pandemic exams (p > 0.05). In the pandemic period, exam volume followed an inverted parabolic pattern, reflecting Covid surges for the cohort and all demographic subgroups. Conclusion: The COVID-19 pandemic significantly decreased lung cancer screening volume and new enrollment in our urban inner-city program. Screening volumes demonstrated a parabolic curve reflecting pandemic surges following the initial wave, unlike other reports. The combination of the impact of COVID on our population and lack of staffing redundancy in the screening program, in the face of typical COVID isolation and quarantine absences, impeded early pandemic rebound of our lung cancer screening program. This highlights the necessity of fostering resilience by developing robust programmatic resources.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-6
Number of pages6
JournalClinical Imaging
StatePublished - Aug 2023


  • COVID-19
  • Cancer screening
  • Lung cancer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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