United Kingdom. London: The COVID-19 pandemic is having a “catastrophic impact” on cancer care in Europe, according to the WHO.
In a statement, Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Europe Region Director, highlighted how Europe health systems, strained by the pandemic and the travel restrictions, are delaying cancer’s diagnosis and treatments, with this having a direct impact on “the chances of a cure or survival for hundreds of thousands of cancer patients.”
Dr Kluge wrote on Twitter earlier today: “A crisis of noncommunicable diseases, including cancer, is brewing, brought on by the #COVID19 pandemic. But we are fighting back. Today, we have an opportunity to map a new path.”
According to WHO’s data, in the first few months of the pandemic “in 122 out of 163 countries, noncommunicable disease services had been disrupted, and that 1 in 3 countries in the European Region had partially or completely disrupted cancer services”.
For instance, at Kyrgyzstan’s National Center of Oncology, in April last year, the number of diagnoses dropped by 90%.
In the Netherlands and Belgium, in the first lockdown of 2020, the diagnosis dropped by 30-40%.
While, in the UK, the delayed treatments and diagnosis are expected to result in “an increase in the number of deaths from colorectal cancer by 15%, and 9% for breast cancer over the next 5 years.”
Furthermore, some countries have experienced a shortage of essential cancer’s drugs.
As stressed in the statement, some cancer treatments and medications are really expensive, even for high-income countries; so, the current economic crisis is negatively affecting the pre-existing inequalities in accessing cancer treatments.
Cancer numbers before the pandemic
“Even in a normal year, noncommunicable diseases such as cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes are the leading cause of death and disability in the WHO European Region, accounting for more than 80% of deaths.” says the WHO.
In 2020, 4.8 million people in Europe were diagnosed with cancer: more than 13.000 every day.
The WHO data also shows that 1 in 3 people in western European countries will develop cancer at some point in their life, compared to the 1 in 4 in eastern European countries.
Today in honour of World Cancer Day, WHO is launching Pan-European Cancer Initiative “to unite all towards better cancer control and prevention and to enable policy-makers to make the right decisions to address cancer effectively.”
The initiative will focus on 5 elements: prevention, early detection, access for all to diagnosis and treatment, palliative care, and a focus on data.
The WHO/Europe has earlier said on Twitter: “Today we announce Aron Anderson as a WHO/Europe’s #cancer ambassador.
Aron is an inspirational individual who recovered from #cancer at an early age. His support will prove vital as part of United Action Against Cancer.”
Mr Anderson is a Swedish adventurer with the first-hand experience of cancer.