A ‘crisis is brewing,’ according to the World Health Organization.
Coronavirus measures will have a ‘catastrophic’ impact on ‘hundreds of thousands’ of cancer patients who’ve had appointments cancelled and screenings delayed during the pandemic, WHO’s regional director for Europe warned last week.
Travel restrictions, along with a strain on the health systems across Europe, have resulted in the disruption of cancer services across the entire region, Dr Hans Kluge said.
“Due to travel restrictions and the enormous strain on health systems of fighting Covid-19, cancer services have been disrupted across the entire region, significantly delaying diagnosis and treatment, directly impacting the chances of a cure or survival for hundreds of thousands of cancer patients.”
In the United States, Dr Ned Sharpless, head of the National Cancer Institute issued a similar warning, saying for the first time in 30 years, the cancer death rate in the country could increase due to the pandemic delaying screenings, diagnoses and treatments.
According to Sharpless, the disruption in cancer services could likely lead to some 10,000 additional deaths from breast and colon cancer over the next decade — an estimate he said was likely conservative.
During the height of the pandemic, almost 150,000 fewer Australians than usual were tested for cancer — a figure that experts fear could mean thousands of Australians are unaware they could have the disease.
Nine of Australia’s leading cancer groups reported sharp falls in scans, tests and diagnostics during the pandemic and are now urging patients to see their GPs for any symptoms, no matter how mild.
Figures released by the Cancer Council show that between January and September 2020, there were around 149,000 fewer cancer diagnostic tests done compared to the same period the year before. That includes scans, blood tests and biopsies.
Dr Kluge went on to say, “The impact of the pandemic on cancer in the Region is nothing short of catastrophic. It has made us realize the actual human cost of neglecting a noncommunicable disease such as cancer.”