Coronavirus crisis “could trigger cancer epidemic,” warns expert

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There is a risk of a cancer epidemic following the response to Covid-19, warned an academic.

It follows new research that has shown that efforts to fight coronaviruses “significantly” affect the treatment and care of cancer patients.

The research, published in the European Journal of Cancer, highlights how the reorientation of health systems and the implementation of social distancing measures, including national closings, have had negative effects on cancer patients.

There were also delays in urgent referrals and patients whose cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy, was postponed or surgery was delayed.

The research was carried out collaboratively by Queen’s University of Belfast, the University of Split, Croatia, and King’s College London.



Coronavirus crisis “could trigger cancer epidemic”

There are more than 3.7 million new cancer diagnoses in Europe each year and more than 1.9 million deaths.

Professor Mark Lawler of Queen’s University said there was a risk of a future cancer epidemic.

“We are already seeing the indirect effects of the Covid-19 crisis on cancer care,” he said.

“The number of urgent referrals is decreasing, endoscopies and other surgical procedures are postponed and many cancer specialists are redirected to specific care for Covid-19. If we do not act, we risk the unintended consequences of the current Covid-19 pandemic precipitating a future cancer epidemic. ”



Patient examining x-ray of lung cancer

He added: “We must encourage cancer patients or citizens who fear having symptoms of cancer to continue to have access to health systems and we must ensure that these health systems are tailored to their needs. . Cancer must be firmly rooted in our cross paths, to avoid adding the number of lives lost to cancer patients to Covid-19. ”

Research also highlights that the more people worry about the signs and symptoms of Covid-19, the less people seek advice on new symptoms of possible cancer, including abnormal bleeding or new lumps on the body.

Professor Eduard Vrdoljak of the University of Split also expressed concern.

“I am extremely worried. We are facing significant challenges, ”he said.



A cancer cell among healthy cells

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Coronavirus prevention

“People’s fear of going to a health facility, combined with a more focused mind on Covid-19 symptoms, means they can minimize rectal or bladder bleeding, a lump in the breast, or other signs cancer that would otherwise immediately lead them to see their doctor.

“We are starting to see people who may be at risk for developing cancer fear a Covid-19 diagnosis more than a cancer diagnosis. “

Professor Richard Sullivan of King’s College London added: “The focus on Covid-19 through 24-hour news cycles and social media has radically changed our emotional and social infrastructure.

“At the scientific level, the modeling on which public health measures are 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 from cancer, or indeed any other health condition.

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