EHS-COVID (18) Impact of COVID on cancer care (2)

5 November, 2020

A few days ago Mark Lodge noted that his organisation (International Network for Cancer Treatment and Research) 'is inviting health care professionals, patients and their supporters in LMICs to share short descriptions of 50 words or less summarising how the Coronavirus pandemic has affected the care of cancer patients in their country'.

This new Commentary from The Lancet EClinicalMedicine, looking at breast cancer, suggests the global impact is profound.

CITATION: Commentary| volume 26, 100523, september 01, 2020

Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on clinical and surgical breast cancer management

Paolo Veronesi & Giovanni Corso

Open Access Published: September 20, 2020


The COVID-19 viral pandemic responsible for the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) disease has dramatically impacted our work worldwide in the management of patients in terms of diagnosis and surgical treatment of cancer - including breast cancer. It has led to a rapid and unprecedented re-organization of surgical units to ensure that those patients with respiratory distress disease received optimal care. From this global situation, we can observe two important consequences that affect clinical practice. In the short term, researchers and related resources have been reassigned to managing the test procedures of COVID-19 patients, and routine research activities have been suspended. Moreover, studies and clinical trials for COVID-19 have become a priority. In addition, travel restrictions have meant that several international conferences, audits, and student training have been cancelled. In the medium to longer term, recruitment delays resulting from the pandemic will negatively affect the early diagnosis of cancer and surgical procedures, with implications that are damaging not only financially, but also in terms of potential diagnosis of more advanced cancers, reducing possibilities of survival and optimal care delivery...

We cannot forget also the psychological impact of delayed cancer diagnosis due to the COVID-19 pandemic... we could expect an increased number of new breast cancer cases after the end of the pandemic and a greater number of more advanced breast cancer cases, probably also inoperable.

COVID-19 has had an immense and negative effect on cancer treatment and research. In the very near future, we should expect a new health emergency for the management of these cancer patients.


Neil Pakenham-Walsh, HIFA Coordinator,