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Impact of COVID-19 on Cancer

COVID-19 continues to disrupt daily life, but to a much greater degree and with much more profound consequences for cancer patients who require ongoing treatment.

Healthcare facilities have reorganized their daily resources to be able to cope with the influx of COVID-19 patients, requiring cancer patients to weigh the potential benefits of receiving their treatment locally with the risks posed by potential coronavirus infection.

In the 155 countries surveyed by the World Health Organization, more than half have deferred organized cancer screening programs, such as those for breast and cervical cancer.


Impact of COVID-19 on Cancer

because of delayed diagnosis, according to a "conservative" National Cancer Institute (NCI) model, breast and colon cancer deaths, which account for one-sixth of total cancer mortality, could grow by 1 percent per year in the United States, or 10,000 more deaths per year, between 2020 and 2030.


Experts indicate that these numbers are subject to change as the pandemic evolves.

The NCI is particularly concerned about cancers detected at an advanced stage, which require more aggressive and expensive treatments and often have a very poor outcome.


Early detection is essential for cancer treatment. For example, in the case of cervical cancer, the five-year survival rate is 92% if diagnosed before it has spread, but only 17% if diagnosed at an advanced stage.

During the pandemic of COVID-19, cancer screening fell severely: cervical cancer screening fell by 68% in the United States in the first 15 weeks of 2020, and breast cancer screening fell by 17%, with even more of a decline in areas where coronavirus infection was most prevalent.

Overloaded and exhausted health workers

At this time, 2 years after COVID-19 arrived, the health workforce is overloaded and exhausted, reassigned to deal with the virus's direct impact.

But any relief that generalized immunity provides through vaccination and in the wake of the less severe Omicron, as well as the upcoming spring and summer season, must be used immediately to allow healthcare workers to return to other important health care functions to reduce delays in chronic care services.

 In the future, the maintenance of essential health care services, including services across the cancer care continuum, from prevention, early detection, diagnosis, and treatment to palliative care - must be a component of emergency planning and response.

High tumor burden, limited survival

The scientists recruited 80 patients with metastatic colorectal cancer (48 men and 32 women) from 18 French clinical centers. The first 40 of these patients had been diagnosed before containment and the other 40 after.

 The tumor burden of these patients was determined by the total plasma concentration of circulating tumor DNA, a biomarker of the extent of cancer in the body. The more this load, the more evolved cancer and previous data show that this is associated with a diminished probability of survival.

 To proceed with this work and confirm the results, the team is at present studying the data from the second confinement.


« The deleterious consequences of the pandemic on the management of cancers had until now been mainly theorized and modeled. Our study is one of the first to objectivize them in a concrete way, which makes me fear negative repercussions on the prognosis of patients treated for metastatic colorectal cancer during this period. More globally, it reinforces the major importance of screening and early diagnosis of this type of pathology », said medical oncologist Dr. Thibault Mazard, at the Montpellier Cancer Institute and medical coordinator of the study.


« A delayed first visit of patients to an oncologist and reduced screening tests during confinements appear to be the main causes of the difference in tumor burden and the resulting risk of reduced survival. Our data thus highlight the crucial importance of early detection and maintenance of screening programs and the efficiency of services and professionals involved in cancer diagnosis and treatment during a pandemic. Furthermore, it seems necessary to implement appropriate communication interventions to minimize patients' fears and encourage access to care during such periods », concludes Alain Thierry, Inserm researcher and scientific coordinator of the study.


to know the complications, risks, and advice of cancer diseases against covid-19, you can consult the following article:

Cancer/Covid-19report: vaccination, risks, what advice?



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