Why cancer control is fundamental during a pandemic

A comprehensive national cancer control plan can help ensure the continued delivery of cancer care even during a pandemic or other public health crisis
22 January 2021

Experts from UICC and other institutions co-author an editorial in IJC on the importance for countries to develop and implement a national cancer control plan, even as the pandemic continues to strain health systems.

The burden that is being placed by the coronavirus pandemic on health systems will have far-reaching consequences beyond the immediate mortality and illness caused by COVID-19. These include diverted resources, disruption of non-communicable disease-associated health services (vaccination, maternal and child health), and delays in diagnostics and treatment, leading to higher incidence and mortality rates for other diseases such as cancer.

Now is precisely the time for countries to build on the political will to invest in healthcare planning generated by COVID-19,  and develop or update national cancer control plans (NCCP), according to an article entitled “Why cancer control is fundamental during a pandemic” by seven experts from Switzerland, Canada and the US [1] and published in the International Journal of Cancer.

“An NCCP is essential in guiding a country’s cancer control strategy, especially during a pandemic. (…) A comprehensive, evidence-based, equitable and resourced NCCP guides all cancer prevention and management activities undertaken in a country to address the national cancer burden.”
Excerpt from the editorial “Why cancer control is fundamental during a pandemic" in the International Journal of Cancer

The article emphasises, in particular, the key role played by surveillance in providing data that can be used to address the needs of patients comprehensively along the cancer control continuum of prevention, early detection, diagnosis, treatment, survivorship and palliative care. It can also assist in evaluating mitigation strategies developed as part of a pandemic response, including how to reduce in-patient visits, adapting therapies and shifting to telehealth in consultation with patients and their care teams. Finally, it can help in the identification and allocation of essential resources during a health crisis.

The authors highlight the work of the International Control Partnership (ICCP) in assisting countries with cancer control planning efforts.


Sonali Johnson
, Head of Knowledge, Advocacy and Policy, UICC
Yannick Romero, Knowledge and Advocacy Manager, UICC
Zuzanna Tittenbrun, Global Resources Manager, UICC
Jean‐Marc Bourque, Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, Toronto, Canada and Division of Radiation Oncology, University of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. 
Kalina Duncan
, Center for Global Health, National Cancer Insittute, Maryland
Lewis Foxhall, Office of Health Policy, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas
Karin Hohman, Strategic Health Concepts, Colorado

Last update: 
Tuesday 9 March 2021