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How the pandemic impacted cancer service volumes, in 8 graphs

By Ashley RileyJulia Elder

August 24, 2022

    During the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, many health care services were delayed or moved to the virtual setting. However, cancer care is unlike most other services because cancer patients and providers often don't have the ability to postpone or stop treatment.

    To get a better idea of how cancer care has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, we analyzed Medicare claims data (CMS' Standard Analytical Files) for cancer screening, diagnostic, and treatment services from the beginning of 2019 through the end of 2021.

    The interactive graphs below show quarterly oncology service volumes that allow you to compare utilization from before the pandemic, during the peak of the pandemic, and during the peri-pandemic era. Review these graphs to learn which oncology services took the biggest hit during the peak of the pandemic, and how they've recovered since then.

    How to use the graphs

    Use the drop-down menu at the top of the graph to select which of the eight cancer services analyzed you'd like to see quarterly service volumes for: outpatient cancer screening1, outpatient cancer biopsy2, outpatient chemotherapy, outpatient radiation therapy, outpatient cancer surgery3, inpatient cancer surgery4, inpatient medical oncology, and inpatient radiation oncology.

    Quarterly oncology service utilization volumes before and during the Covid-19 pandemic

    CMS' Standard Analytical Files (Medicare fee-for-service claims data), Q1 2019 – Q4 2021

    Note: Each graph uses a different scale, so make sure to pay attention to the volume values when comparing different services. Service volumes range from hundreds to millions.


    1. Includes colonoscopy and mammography.
    2. Includes biopsies for bone marrow, breast, gastrointestinal, gynecologic, head and neck, hepatobiliary/pancreatic, lymphatic, orthopedic, skin, soft tissue, spine, thoracic, and urologic cancers.
    3. Includes key outpatient surgeries for breast, gastrointestinal, gynecologic, head and neck, hematological, hepatobiliary/pancreatic, musculoskeletal, skin, soft tissue, thoracic, and urologic cancers.
    4. Includes key inpatient surgeries for breast, gastrointestinal, gynecologic, head and neck, hematological, hepatobiliary/pancreatic, neurological, skin, thoracic, and urologic cancers.

    Webinar: 2022 Oncology State of the Union

    imageIn this year’s Oncology State of the Union, we examined the most important strategic questions facing oncology leaders across the industry during the peri-Covid-19 era. While the pandemic has had very real—and at times painful—consequences already, many of the decisions that will shape the future of oncology have yet to be made.

    We discussed which structural elements of the oncology landscape remain in flux, and what steps various oncology stakeholders can take to influence the direction and pace of change of those shifts.

    Download now


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