Fall in cancer diagnoses during the pandemic likely to cause 'major challenge'

According to the report, there has been substantial progress in cancer control in Ireland.
Fall in cancer diagnoses during the pandemic likely to cause 'major challenge'

A new report from the National Cancer Registry Ireland (NCRI) has said early data suggests a drop in the number of cancers diagnosed during the pandemic.

Although a definitive percentage is not known, it is estimated that the overall shortfall may be between 10-14 per cent.

There have been concerns raised over the impact Covid-19 has had on detection of cancer.

As highlighted by the NCRI, throughout the pandemic, patients postponed doctors’ visits, screening programmes were paused, and acute services were reconfigured to reduce footfall in hospitals.

Commenting on the report, Professor Deirdre Murray, director of the National Cancer Registry said the impact of the reduction is not yet known.

“Our report brings much good news of the progress to date in cancer prevention and care,” Professor Murray said.

“However, as expected, preliminary data show that the numbers of cancer patient registrations in 2020 are reduced.

“The impact of this reduction is as yet unknown and will be a focus of future NCRI reports.”

The Irish Cancer Society has said the progress made on cancer survival is now at risk due to the disruption of Covid-19.

The organisations CEO, Averil Power, said that it is very worrying that fewer cancers were diagnosed last year.

“This will present a major challenge for years to come, and is unfortunately no surprise as already struggling cancer services have been stretched to breaking point during the pandemic,” Ms Power said.

“Lengthy waiting lists and disruptions to vital diagnostic and screening services are now all too commonplace.

“Patients are telling us that they are terrified of having their treatment delayed given the current spike in Covid case numbers and are very distressed about the worrying consequences to their health from catching the virus, and the further risk of treatment delays that this would bring.”

Fall in cancer morality

According to the report, there has been substantial progress in cancer control in Ireland.

NCRI has said there are indications that there has been significant progress made to control the four major cancers which are prostate, breast, lung and colorectal cancer.

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.

Speaking about the latest data, Dr Jerome Coffey, Chair of the NCRI Board welcomed the progress being made.

“It is very heartening to see year-on-year reductions in cancer incidence and mortality and improvements in survival rates in Ireland, as indicated in this report,” Dr Coffey said.

“This progress reflects the advances in cancer prevention and care that come from both research and the sustained commitment and efforts of policy-makers, funders and healthcare workers.”

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