The effects of Covid-19 in the fight against cancer

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused a catastrophic interruption in cancer services in Europe, the World Health Organization has warned on World Cancer Day.

One in three countries experienced delays in diagnosis and treatment, especially during the first wave last spring. This will directly affect the chances of cure or survival for hundreds of thousands of patients. A reality that a Belgian oncologist and a British cancer researcher have confirmed to Euronews.

“In April we had 44% fewer new cases diagnosed and in September it was 14% less. There was a recovery, but that 14% less means 5,000 people with cancer who were not diagnosed in September”, explained Dr. Anne Boucquiau, medical director of the Belgian Foundation against Cancer.

For his part, Professor Mark Lawler, a member of the board of the European Cancer Organization, explains that during the first wave “four out of ten patients were not receiving, for example, their chemotherapy at the right time, so they really had a devastating effect on cancer patients and oncology services across Europe. “

The European Commission promised to develop a contingency plan to respond to similar scenarios in the future. Its new Plan to Fight Cancer will strengthen, for example, telemedicine and remote monitoring. But experts say mental fatigue and financial distress will also need to be addressed.

“People are so focused on this pandemic, the images are so disturbing and stressful. There are people in a dramatic financial situation, so many stopped taking care of themselves and their health for the moment, and decided to wait to go. to the doctor even when they have some worrisome symptoms. One of the first cancers that were not being diagnosed was skin cancer but there is no reason not to go to the doctor if there are any signs or to do a screening, “defended Boucquiau.

The European Cancer Organization has proposed to governments that they create new publicity campaigns to raise awareness, as one of its key points in its plan for the EU. Experts also want more funding for research.

“In that first phase of the pandemic we saw a drop in the activity of clinical trials and also in the translation of research, sometimes up to 80%, so it is essential that we continue research. It has been shown how research has led to the rapid development of vaccines for Covid-19. We must also ensure that we continue to invest in cancer research to find better ways to diagnose and treat patients, “Lawler insisted.

The European Commission says it will establish a new Cancer Awareness Center and a Cancer Inequalities Registry this year.