COVID-19 response causing delays to treatment and care of cancer patients

  • The COVID-19 pandemic is “significantly and negatively” affecting treatment and care of patients with cancer, according to research from Queen’s University Belfast (QUB).

    The study highlights how social distancing measures and the repurposing of health systems is causing delays in cancer patients receiving treatments, surgeries and urgent referrals.

    It also said 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 rectal or bladder bleeding, or new lumps on the body. 

    Researchers stated that cancer has over 3.7m new diagnoses in Europe each year and over 1.9m deaths. They noted that deaths may increase significantly, directly as a result of the current crisis.

    RELATED: QUB awarded nearly £300k to find COVID-19 treatment

    Recent data from Wuhan in China - the original epicentre of the pandemic - shows that usage of cancer drugs in the first quarter of 2020 has decreased by over 20%.

    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 paper was recently published in the European Journal of Cancer and was a collaboration with the University of Split, Croatia and King’s College London Cancer.

    Professor of Digital Health at QUB and senior author on the paper Mark Lawler said: “We must encourage cancer patients, or citizens who are worried that they may have cancer symptoms, to continue to access health systems and we must ensure that those health systems are fit for purpose to support them.

    “If we don’t act, we risk the unintended consequence of the current COVID-19 pandemic precipitating a future cancer epidemic.” 

    Professor Eduard Vrdoljak from the University of Split and lead author on the research added: “In transitioning nations in Central and Eastern Europe, and more widely in low and middle-income countries globally, we are already significantly challenged in our fight against cancer.

    "Let’s not make the situation worse by ignoring cancer in the current crisis.” 

    RELATED: QUB producing face masks to donate to NHS

    Source: Written from press release

    About the author

    Niamh is a Sync NI writer with a previous background of working in FinTech and financial crime. She has a special interest in sports and emerging technologies. To connect with Niamh, feel free to send her an email or connect on Twitter.

    Got a news-related tip you’d like to see covered on Sync NI? Email the editorial team for our consideration.

Share this story