The impact of the coronavirus on the health system has had a “catastrophic” effect on cancer patients and, in some countries, up to 50% of diagnostic, review and treatment services have been affected, the regional office has warned. WHO European


X-ray of a lung with cancer

The director of WHO-Europe, Hans Kluge, has lamented the “deadly interaction” created by the covid-19 pandemic and has highlighted that 44% of countries worldwide reported an increase in delays in cancer-related services. in the second half of 2021.

During the start of the pandemic, diagnoses of invasive tumors fell, for example, by 44% in Belgium; Colorectal cancer screenings fell by 46% in Italy and the number of cancers diagnosed in Spain in 2020 was 34% lower than expected.

The global situation regarding cancer health care has improved in the last months of the pandemic, but the chain reaction caused by these alterations will be felt “for years,” Kluge stressed.

The director of WHO-Europe admitted that health personnel are “overwhelmed” and “exhausted” after two years of the pandemic, but at the same time emphasized the importance of redirecting an “unprecedented” situation.

“Any respite from the broad immunity provided by vaccination and the less severe omicron variant, coupled with the arrival of spring and summer, should be used immediately to allow health workers to return to other important roles and reduce delays in chronic ailment services,” he claimed.

Cancer is one of the main causes of mortality and disease in the European region and accounts for 20% of all deaths registered in it, although between 30 and 40% of those registered are preventable, the WHO pointed out on the eve of the World Cancer Day, which is commemorated on February 4.

One million undiagnosed cases of cancer due to the pandemic

One million cases of cancer were not diagnosed in Europe due to the pandemic, which prevented 100 million screening tests for a disease that is the second leading cause of death on the continent and the first in children over one year of age, according to a report from the European Parliament.

Another of the conclusions of the report, presented this Thursday in Madrid by three Spanish MEPs who are members of the European Parliament commission that prepared it, is that one in five cancer patients did not receive the surgical or chemotherapy treatment they needed on time during the health emergency.

The special commission for the Fight against Cancer (BECA, in English), which includes MEPs Nicolás González Casares (PSOE), Dolors Montserrat (PP) and Margarita de la Pisa (Vox), approved the report on the 9th of December and its vote in the plenary session of the European Parliament (EP) will take place the week of February 14.

The director of WHO-Europe, Hans Kluge, in a file image. EFE/EPA/IDA GULDBAEK ARENTSEN

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