11 May 2021

New research finds that clinicians saw 1.5 million fewer cancer patients because of COVID-19

A major new campaign is calling on every country in Europe to restore full cancer services as soon as possible to prevent new cancer epidemics in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. It urges the public to get symptoms checked promptly.

The European Cancer Organisation’s “Time to Act” campaign was launched by EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides, together with European politicians, patient representatives and healthcare professionals. With a slogan of “Don’t let COVID-19 stop you from tackling cancer”, its messages to the public are:

  • Look for warning signs and consult your doctor
  • Keep your appointments and plan new ones
  • Share your experiences and seek support

The European Cancer Organisation has backed up its multilingual campaign with new research showing that 100 million screening tests were not performed in Europe during the pandemic, leading to later diagnoses and decreased overall survival.  Clinicians across Europe saw 1.5 million fewer cancer patients in the first year of the pandemic

The research has also found that up to one in two people with potential symptoms of cancer were not urgently referred for diagnosis during the pandemic. And one in five cancer patients in Europe is still not receiving the surgical or chemotherapy treatment they need.

During the launch, Kathy Oliver, Co-Chair of the European Cancer Organisation’s Patient Advisory Committee, highlighted the many ways in which the rights of cancer patients have been compromised during the pandemic. She emphasised the value of tools such as the European Code of Cancer Practice as a means of safeguarding these rights during the restoration of cancer services.

EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides gave her support to the Time to Act campaign, saying there was an urgent need for cancer services to be restored: “Cancer takes time away from us. It doesn’t care who or where we are. And it will not wait for the COVID-19 pandemic to be over. Prevention and early diagnosis offer the best chances of keeping cancer at bay. So please. Don’t wait. Don’t waste time. Time is your friend. Visit your doctor. Go for your checkup. Go to screening appointments.”

You can watch a video of the launch event, and download campaign resources in 30 languages from the European Cancer Organisation website.