Irish Cancer Society concerned detection rates affected by Covid disruption
The Irish Cancer Society has expressed concern that service disruption under Covid-19 may have caused a drop in cancer detection.
Figures from the National Cancer Registry of Ireland show the number of cancers diagnosed dropped over the first two years of the pandemic.
The Irish Cancer Society said this may have been caused by patients putting off seeking medical advice, disruptions to the health service or possibly death from Covid-19.
The combined number of diagnosed cancers during 2020 and 2021 was down 4,320 cases, or 8% lower than projected.
Liver, pancreatic and kidney cancers appear to have been most significantly impacted by the disruptions that occurred due to Covid-19.
Preliminary data on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic indicates the number of cancer cases diagnosed in 2021 was down 1,665 cases, or 6% lower than projected.
This is a smaller shortfall in diagnoses than the 10% observed in 2020.
Colorectal, female breast and cervical cancer case numbers, which were notably impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, returned to expected case numbers in 2021.
Director of advocacy Rachel Morrogh said the Irish Cancer Society is “dismayed” over the figures.
“The combined number of missed cancers from 2020 and 2021 tell us that one in 12 expected cancers were not detected over the first two years of the pandemic.
“We don’t yet have the full picture of whether these cancers were diagnosed at a more advanced stage, but what we do know is that the later the stage of diagnosis, the more complex, more costly and more invasive cancer is to treat.
“Crucially, later diagnosis can impact a person’s chance of survival and their quality of life, so we are viewing the figures in the context that each number represents a family who, tragically, may have less time with a loved one.
She said the figures underline the need to significantly reduce waiting times for cancer tests while expanding capacity across public cancer services.
“Cancer never went away during the pandemic but remained undetected due to a range of reasons.”
The Irish Cancer Society’s most recent omnibus survey from May found 20% of people have not attended a GP or hospital appointment in the last three months, even though they say they have needed to.
“Roughly one-third have put off these appointments due to either the pressures in the health service or because they could not afford it.
“Four in 10 adults in Ireland are not confident that they can access the health services they need at the current time.
“One in five are currently waiting for a health test, with 65% of these waiting longer than four months.
“Given the public’s engagement with health services continues to be below the levels we would like to see, and until we see data that shows the number of cancers diagnosed have returned to expected levels, the Irish Cancer Society will continue to call for urgent and accelerated measures from Government that get people diagnosed in the first instance and, secondly, that ensure swift access to cancer treatment.”