“WE are very much expecting a wave of cancer diagnosis,” said the general manager of Cork ARC Cancer Support House Catriona O’Mahony, following a recent report from the National Cancer Registry Ireland (NCRI).
The report found that there was a drop in the number of cancers diagnosed during the Covid-19 pandemic. Early data estimates the number of cancers diagnosed to have decreased by between 10 and 14%.
This has led to concerns being raised by experts in the medical industry who are fearful of a surge in cancer diagnosis in the near future.
They cite the disruption caused by the global pandemic which led to patients postponing doctors’ visits, screening programmes being paused, and acute services being reconfigured to reduce footfall in hospitals.
Ms O’Mahony said they are already seeing more cases.
“There has been an increase in the demand for our services and we are expecting the demand to increase further," she said. "We will be as prepared as possible in terms of what services we can have ready for people.
"Research has shown that disruption in the health service for six months can have a knock-on effect for seven years for delayed diagnosis and poor outcomes.
Ms O’Mahony urged people not to be put off getting checked because of a fear of Covid.
“A lot of people will only feel safe going to see their GPs and going into hospitals for tests when Covid is gone," she acknowledged. "That is behind the delay at the moment as people are fearful of picking up Covid. I very much understand people’s concerns.
"We would encourage people to contact organisations like us if they have any concerns."
The report also highlighted that there has been substantial progress made in cancer control in Ireland. Mortality rates for the four major cancers are falling or stabilising, with the incidence rates falling for both lung and colorectal cancer.
Furthermore, the number of cancer survivors living through or after cancer treatment in Ireland continues to increase. At the end of 2019, there were nearly 200,000 patients living after a cancer diagnosis. The report cites earlier detection and better treatments as contributing factors for the fall in cancer morality.
Ms O’Mahony welcomed the many positive findings from the report.
“There is a lot of work being done for cancer research," she said. "We are seeing more people surviving cancer which is brilliant.
"The treatments are much better. That does have to be recognised.”