Testing rates for prostate cancer fell by almost one-third in the ACT at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, new research has revealed.
A report released by Cancer Australia on the impact the pandemic had on lung cancer and prostate cancer found rates of testing and surgical procedures for the two cancers plummeted in April, when the nation went into lockdown.
In Canberra, there were 834 tests carried out for prostate cancer in March, but that figure fell by 30 per cent by the next month, dropping to 572 tests.
However, by June, the testing rate had increased back to levels exceeding pre-pandemic rates.
Similar trends have been recorded for MRI tests to detect prostate cancer, although the report compiled the ACT's figures alongside NSW rates due to statistically low rates in Canberra.
Surgeries for prostate cancer also dropped during the pandemic in Canberra, however that figure has since recovered to be on par with the amount of surgeries performed at the same time last year.
While the number of tests and diagnostic procedures for lung cancer fell in the early stages of the pandemic, the number of surgeries dealing with the cancer increased despite coronavirus restrictions.
Nationally, lung cancer surgeries increased in the time period between March and April this year and have maintained a steady trend above 2019 levels.
Cancer Australia chief executive Professor Dorothy Keefe said those figures reflected the nature of lung cancer.
"It's because lung cancers are often diagnosed at a later stage than other cancers, and it's often not as operable when it's first diagnosed," Professor Keefe said.
"It's a harder cancer to diagnose in time to be surgically cured, and the figures reflect that."
The findings from Cancer Australia on prostate and lung cancers come after the organisation released a similar report in September on breast and colorectal cancers, which showed declines in testing and surgeries.
Professor Keefe said while the ACT did record falls in diagnostic tests for prostate and lung cancers, it was one of the better performers compared with other jurisdictions.
"The ACT did well in terms of not reducing its diagnoses and treatments and that relates to how few cases in the ACT of COVID-19 there were," she said.
"I think the bigger states like NSW, Victoria and Queensland had bigger drops, and that relates to COVID case numbers and the response of the health system."
While rates of testing and surgeries for cancer were starting to pick up again, Professor Keefe said it would still be some time before it would be known if there was a wider impact on cancer detection as a result of the pandemic.
"I think after we got over the initial shock of the pandemic and realised this would continue for a long time, we realised we couldn't go on avoiding testing as usual," she said.
"We aren't expecting a big impact on prostate cancers and more people being diagnosed with them because they are usually slow growing, but there is always an exception to the rule."