A new report, launched today - Cancer Care in Ireland in 2020 – the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic - highlights the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on cancer diagnostics and treatment in Ireland in 2020.
The report, a collaboration between the Faculty of Pathology (RCPI), the National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP), the National Specialty Quality Improvement Programmes in Histopathology and GI Endoscopy (RCPI), Queen’s University Belfast, the National Cancer Registry Ireland, the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry (NICR) and DATA-CAN (the UK’s Health Data Research Hub for Cancer), details the reduction in activity experienced across the cancer services pathway during 2020, most marked during the first wave of the pandemic in March to June 2020 . There was variable recovery in all aspects of presentation, diagnosis, and treatment from June 2020 onward however activity overall did not reach 2019 levels.
Prof Louise Burke lead author and Dean of the Faculty of Pathology said of the report:
“Notwithstanding the huge efforts and commitment of all staff in cancer services and the NCCP to the continuation of diagnosis, treatment and support to cancer patients throughout the on-going pandemic, the data in this report, and that of a parallel analysis by the National Cancer Registry Ireland, suggests a 10% to 14% drop in cancer diagnoses in 2020. Cancer treatments did not appear to be as adversely affected as diagnostics during this period. For example, the number of cancer resections reported in 2020 was 96% of 2019 figures.”
Prof Burke also said:
“The key message from this report is to encourage and support the public to take early action and contact their healthcare provider if they have signs or symptoms of a possible cancer. They should also attend cancer screening services when invited.
“The adverse impacts illustrated in this report are not unique to Ireland. Data intelligence form Northern Ireland, UK and Europe show similar trends. It is concerning to see the adverse impact to cancer care in the context of COVID-19 with the acknowledged potential for missed opportunities to intervene early in a patient's cancer journey. It is important to say that we won’t fully understand the overall significance of the impacts identified here in Ireland until the 2020 NCRI data matures to include staging, survival and mortality data.
“Importantly, the data highlights the increased resilience developed within the service as the marked reduction in activity observed in the first wave was not replicated during the level 5 lockdown of October 2020. In addition, although incomplete, initial data for some aspects of service delivery from January to March 2021 (the third wave) appear to demonstrate continued resilience in the system.”
Prof Burke added:
“The absence of real time, complete, integrated datasets presented challenges to compiling this report. It is essential that cancer services have sufficient capacity to address backlogs and increasing demands. It is also imperative that we improve availability and integration of data to provide more timely comprehensive cancer specific intelligence encompassing public and private healthcare systems.”