COVID-19 threatens to erase years of progress in our fight against cancer. The time to act is now.
Prior to the pandemic, death rates in some types cancer had started to stabilise or even decrease as patients increasingly took a more active role in their own care, while cancer services improved, and more treatments became available.1,2 The COVID-19 pandemic has partially or severely disrupted cancer care services globally3, possibly significantly impacting the prospect of early diagnosis and consequently, improved patient outcomes. By the third quarter of 2020, cancer diagnoses have fallen by approximately 40%4-8 and are likely continuing to decline as the pandemic continues. Fear of contracting the virus at hospitals and clinics may have deterred patients from seeking medical attention for new symptoms or attending routine checks. Many patients with diagnosed cancer also discontinued treatment, due to a myriad of reasons, such as appointments being delayed, and screening being deprioritised in an overburdened healthcare system and to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.9,10 We cannot allow such setbacks in the remarkable progress that has been made against cancer in recent decades.
To address the problem, AstraZeneca has partnered with global patient coalitions representing millions of patients from around the world to launch New Normal, Same Cancer, a program that raises awareness regarding the impact of COVID-19 on cancer care and calls for patients to contact their doctor and return to cancer care services, including anyone who has paused treatment, missed routine checks or is experiencing symptoms that may be due to cancer.
Our call-to-action is clear: Don’t wait. Contact your doctor. Get checked.
These actions are critical because as we adapt to a new normal, cancer has remained the same and continues to be a global challenge.
We are calling on global healthcare leaders and policymakers to ensure pathways with minimised risk of transmission of COVID-19, where all precautions are followed and are available for patients to seek testing services and care and that there is enough diagnostic and treatment capacity to meet the projected needs of patients.
Collaboration of the global oncology community and continued innovations in telehealth and at-home treatments and screenings will further help. New Normal, Same Cancer is just one path to progress.
1. Hashim, D., Boffetta, P., La Vecchia, C., Rota, M., Bertuccio, P., Malvezzi, M. and Negri, E., 2016. The global decrease in cancer mortality: trends and disparities. Annals of Oncology, 27(5), pp.926-933.
2. Cancer.org. 2018. Facts & Figures 2018: Rate Of Deaths From Cancer Continues Decline. [online] Available at: https://www.cancer.org/latest-news/facts-and-figures-2018-rate-of-deaths-from-cancer-continues-decline.html [Accessed 2 October 2020].
3. Richards, M., Anderson, M., Carter, P. et al. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on cancer care. Nat Cancer 1, 565–567 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s43018-020-0074-y. Accessed September 2020.
4. De Vincentiis L, et al. Cancer diagnostic rates during the 2020 ‘lockdown’, due to COVID-19 pandemic, compared with the 2018–2019: an audit study from cellular pathology. Journal of Clinical Pathology Published Online First: 19 June 2020. doi: https://jcp.bmj.com/content/early/2020/06/19/jclinpath-2020-206833
5. Mahase Elisabeth. Covid-19: Urgent cancer referrals fall by 60%, showing “brutal” impact of pandemic BMJ 2020; 369 :m2386.
6. Maringe, C., et al., (2020). The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on cancer deaths due to delays in diagnosis in England, UK: a national, population-based, modelling study. The Lancet Oncology, 21(8), pp.1023-1034.
7. England.nhs.uk. (2020). Statistics » Cancer Waiting Times. Available at: https://www.england.nhs.uk/statistics/statistical-work-areas/cancer-waiting-times/ [Accessed October 2020].
8. Kaufman, H., et al., (2020). Changes in the Number of US Patients With Newly Identified Cancer Before and During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic. JAMA Network Open, 3(8), p.e2017267.
9. Rosenbaum, L., et al., (2020). The Untold Toll — The Pandemic’s Effects on Patients without Covid-19. New England Journal of Medicine, 382(24), pp.2368-2371.
10. The Lancet Oncology, (2020). Safeguarding cancer care in a post-COVID-19 world. The Lancet Oncology, 21(5), p.603.
This article was originally published by AstraZeneca: https://www.astrazeneca.com/our-therapy-areas/oncology/new-normal-same-cancer.html
AstraZeneca is a global, innovation-driven biopharmaceutical business with a primary focus on the discovery, development and commercialization of primary and specialty care medicines that transform lives. Our primary focus is on three important areas of healthcare: Cardiovascular and Metabolic disease; Oncology; and Respiratory, Inflammation and Autoimmunity. For more information: www.astrazeneca.ca.