Detecting and diagnosing cancer early offers patients the greatest potential for cure, with fewer side effects and often at lower costs. However, the suspension of screening services and deferral of diagnostic work during the pandemic is set to unleash a “ticking timebomb” of cancers that have gone undetected, with all the implications for worsening patient outcomes and stretching of health resources.
To reduce the impact, health systems must cope with the challenge of resuming routine cancer services in COVID-free environments and persuading people to return to hospitals, health centres or screening camps. At the same time, they must prepare for the task of absorbing the rebound number of presentations, while maintaining social distancing and other safety protocols.
On the other hand, the pandemic has forced more people to focus on their personal health, fostering greater awareness and agency in the way they deal with risk factors and symptoms of a disease, changes which may offer opportunities for cancer prevention and early detection.
In this first dialogue in the Cancer beyond COVID-19 series, participants discussed how to minimise the impact of disrupted screening and diagnostic services, and how to work towards the goal of early detection during and beyond the pandemic.
Amy Israel, Vice President and Global Head, Oncology Policy & Healthcare Systems, Novartis
Jodie Moffat, Head of Early Diagnosis, Cancer Research UK
Erika Nicholson, Director of Screening, Canadian Partnership Against Cancer
CS Pramesh, Director, Tata Memorial Hospital and UICC Board Member
Sonali Johnson, Head, Knowledge Advocacy and Policy, Union for International Cancer Control (UICC)