Limited impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on colorectal cancer care in the Netherlands in 2020

On behalf of the COVID and Cancer-NL Consortium

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Purpose: The COVID-19 pandemic had a major impact on the health services worldwide. We aimed to investigate the impact of the pandemic on colorectal cancer (CRC) care in the Netherlands in 2020. Methods: CRC patients, diagnosed in 2018–2020 in the Netherlands, were selected from the Netherlands Cancer Registry (NCR). The year 2020 was divided in four periods reflecting COVID-19 developments in the Netherlands (pre-COVID, 1st peak, recovery period, 2nd peak) and compared with the same periods in 2018/2019. Patient characteristics and treatment were compared using the Chi-squared test. Median time between diagnosis and treatment, and between (neo)adjuvant therapy and surgery were analyzed by the Mann–Whitney U test. Results: In total, 38,021 CRC patients were diagnosed in 2018/2019 (n = 26,816) and 2020 (n = 11,205). Median time between diagnosis and initial treatment decreased on average 4 days and median time between neoadjuvant radiotherapy and surgery in clinical stage II or III rectal cancer patients increased on average 34 days during the three COVID-19 periods compared to the same periods of 2018/2019. The proportion of colon cancer patients that underwent elective surgery significantly decreased with 3.0% during the 1st peak. No differences were found in the proportion of patients who received (neo)adjuvant therapy, systemic therapy, or no anti-cancer treatment. Conclusion: Only minor changes in the care for CRC patients occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic, mostly during the 1st peak. In conclusion, the impact on CRC care in the Netherlands was found to be limited. However, long-term effects cannot be precluded.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2013-2020
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Colorectal Disease
Issue number9
Early online date2022
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2022


  • COVID-19
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Nationwide
  • Pandemic
  • Treatment

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