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Impact of Covid-19 sets European cancer outcomes back by almost 10 years

A report, published by The Lancet Oncology Commission, considered that cancer outcomes in Europe have been set back by almost a decade. With cancer already being a leading cause of premature death before the Covid-19 pandemic, there have since been disastrous effects of the pandemic on early diagnosis and treatment.

The report found that there were an estimated one million missed cancer diagnoses across Europe during the pandemic. Higher proportions of patients are currently diagnosed with later cancer stages compared with pre-pandemic rates, with substantial delays in cancer diagnosis. Furthermore, as many as one in two cancer patients did not receive treatment in a timely manner.

The pandemic also led to delays and cancellations of clinical trials and vital research. This has caused concerns that cancer health systems have not been urgently prioritised and will struggle to cope with the demands of increasing patient need in future.  The researchers of the report emphasised that prioritisation of research into cancer was crucial for the delivery of better cancer care.

Sadly, Brexit is also considered to be an issue at play unless the European research community and the UK Government/research community find a way to continue with EU collaborative cancer research. 

One of the report’s co-leads considered that UK cancer research in the post-Brexit world would stand at a crossroads unless strategic decisions were taken to determine whether we continue to partner internationally, or whether isolationism will reduce the UK’s world standing in cancer research.

Report's recommendations

The report put forward a set of recommendations which include:

  • Development of a research and innovation plan to help deliver a 70% average 10-year survival for all patients with cancer by 2035.
  • Equity and equality within European cancer research so that all patients can benefit from advances in that research
  • Development of action plans to increase cancer research capacity and capability across Europe.
  • Cancer research budgets to increase by £50 per capita by 2030.
  • Mitigation of the effects of Brexit on European cancer research.
  • Development of mechanisms to enhance gender equality in cancer research.
  • A mandate step change in cancer prevention, cancer screening, and early cancer detection research to reduce the burden of cancer for patients.
  • Creating a plan to guide policy to help enhance the lives of the 20 million European citizens living with and beyond cancer.
  • Accelerating the research response to the effects of the pandemic on cancer to enable future resilience.

First-hand impact of cancer care delays

Here at Irwin Mitchell, our medical negligence specialists are unfortunately dealing with increasing numbers of enquiries from clients who have suffered worse health outcomes as a result of delayed diagnoses, delayed surgery or delayed therapies for cancer during the pandemic. 

Through my work I sadly see first-hand the impact delayed cancer treatments have my clients and their families. They're often left needing not only answers to their concerns but access to much needed support and in certain circumstances, compensation to fund further treatment, therapies and rehabilitation.

I hope that the report’s recommendations are taken forward to ensure that research can strengthen healthcare systems and healthcare services for all patients.

Find out more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in supporting people following issues in oncology care at our dedicated cancer claims section

In a new report researchers emphasise that prioritising cancer research is crucial for the delivery of more affordable, better, and equal cancer care.”