To examine the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on cancer care access in Chile, analyzing differential effects by insurance type, gender, and age.
We conducted a quasi-experimental study using interrupted time series analysis. We used multiple data sources for a broad evaluation of cancer-related health care utilization from January 2017 to December 2020. We fit negative binomial models by population groups for a range of services and diagnoses.
A sharp drop in oncology health care utilization in March was followed by a slow, incomplete recovery over 2020. Cumulative cancer-related services, diagnostic confirmations, and sick leaves were reduced by one-third in 2020; the decrease was more pronounced among women and the publicly insured. Early diagnosis was missed in 5 132 persons with four common cancers.
The pandemic stressed the Chilean health system, decreasing access to essential services, with a profound impact on cancer care. Oncology service reductions preceded large-scale lockdowns and supply-side disruptions. Importantly, not all population groups were equally affected, with patterns suggesting that gender and socioeconomic inequalities were exacerbated.