The current coronavirus pandemic could ‘significantly’ impact the treatment and care of cancer patients, according to a new study.
The research from Queen’s University Belfast, the University of Split, Croatia and King’s College London warns there could be delays in urgent referrals and chemotherapy as health services adapt in the current pandemic.
According to the academics, there are more than 3.7 million new diagnoses of cancer in Europe each year and over 1.9 million deaths.
The researchers believe this 1.9 million figure may increase significantly, directly as a result of the current crisis.
Recent data from Wuhan in China, the original epicentre of the pandemic, shows that there has been a greater than 20% drop in the use of cancer drugs in the first quarter of 2020.
The British Society of Gastroenterology also recommends that no endoscopic procedures, which are used to screen for bowel/colorectal cancer, can be performed for at least the next three months.
The research also highlights that as more people are worrying about the signs and symptoms of COVID-19, less people are seeking advice on new symptoms of a possible cancer, including abnormal bleeding or new lumps on the body.
‘The focus on COVID-19 through 24-hour news cycle and social media, has dramatically changed our emotional and social infrastructure,’ said director of the Institute of Cancer Policy, King’s College London and author, Professor Richard Sullivan.
‘At the scientific level, the modelling on which public health measures are being taken is entirely focused on COVID-19 mortality and morbidity, with little or no consideration for the impact of control measures on increasing morbidity and mortality in cancer, or indeed any other health condition.’
Professor Mark Lawler, Professor of digital Hhealth, Queen’s University Belfast and senior author on the paper added: ‘We are already seeing the indirect effects of the COVID-19 crisis on cancer care.
‘Urgent referral numbers are dropping, endoscopies and other surgical procedures are being postponed and many cancer specialists are being redirected to COVID-19 specific care. If we don’t act, we risk the unintended consequence of the current COVID019 pandemic precipitating a future cancer epidemic.’
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