FEARS around doctors' visits during the height of the pandemic have led to patients presenting with more advanced and difficult to treat cancers.
Dr. Dearbhaile Collins, Consultant Medical Oncologist at Cork University Hospital and UCC - who is currently leading clinical trials in Cork - has appealed for the public's support following disruptions to cancer patients' treatments.
The cancer researcher was speaking at the launch of the Breakthrough Cancer Research 'Buy Back Time' campaign. She detailed the challenges facing cancer services adding that support is needed now more than ever.
“New treatment options have never been more important," Dr Collins said. "In addition to being particularly vulnerable to the virus and experiencing months of isolation, cancer patients’ treatments were disrupted, screening programmes were delayed and many people avoided investigating new symptoms during the lockdown, as they were either too scared to go to their GP or they didn’t want to burden the healthcare system. This has led to a delay in cancer diagnoses, meaning that some people are now presenting with more advanced cancer and therefore more difficult to treat."
She called on the public to make a donation to help fund cancer research.
“We are calling on the public to once again support the medical profession, but this time - instead of donating food and cosmetics - we are looking for support for our patients. There's no vaccine for Covid yet but there are new treatments for cancer being developed all the time and increased funding can help get them to patients sooner. We have to bring down the statistic of one patient dying from cancer every hour of every day."
Dr Collins hopes that the public will get behind them to save as many lives as possible.
“Research and clinical trials for new and better cancer treatments were put on hold for months. That could be months too late for one of our patients and cost them years of their life. We want to help Breakthrough Cancer Research raise money to fund new treatments that will buy more time for our patients and save more lives, now and in the future. Never more has it needed the support from the public by way of fundraising and donations. Every second counts. We don’t want to lose any more time or any more people."
Stage 4 cancer patient Kay Curtin also lent her voice to the initiative.
“Not so long ago, stage four cancer meant the end as there were no effective treatments," Ms Curtin said. "Thanks to cancer research, I have been at stage four for 4.5 years now and I have a really good quality of life. This would have been unheard of only a few years ago, when I would have been given 6 months max, but I’m aware that I’m living on borrowed time. What is currently keeping me alive is going to stop working at some stage.” She described the importance of donations for those living with cancer.
“The last few months have been particularly difficult for all cancer patients. Medics have been amazing at finding ways to treat us, but the reality is that while I was able to get my treatment safely -which is critical or I wouldn’t be here - the research that will keep me alive into the future has been stalled. I need researchers to find the next treatment that will buy me more time. I look to the future quite hopeful that, by the time I need it, there will be another option there for me. We must fund our future outcomes now. Cancer never takes a break neither can we”
To donate funds to Breakthrough Cancer Research, readers can purchase lab time vouchers for cancer research scientists on breakthroughcancerresearch.ie or text BCR to 50300 to donate. Texts cost €4.