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Covid and Cancer – Spike in Deaths Feared

Australia may have been spared the worst impacts of Covid-19, but there are fears that cancer deaths could rise because thousands of people may have missed out on early cancer diagnoses during the pandemic.

The Cancer Council has released figures from Victoria showing a 10% reduction in cancer screening pathology tests between April and October, 2020.

This could work out to more than 2500 missed diagnoses, potentially leading to more deaths from cancer as opportunities for early intervention and treatment are missed.

The Victorian data shows a 30% drop in some diagnostic procedures and an 18% drop in some treatments. These figures are likely to be a result of the suspension of some medical procedures, along with a reluctance to visit a GP during the pandemic.

Cancer Council Victoria CEO Todd Harper said, “Our concern would be that it may mean that people are diagnosed at a later stage of cancer, where potentially treatment options are not available and cancer may be more advanced. This data gives us time to prepare if there were to be a spike in cancer cases in coming months … This is a unique event, so we don’t actually have any parallels ... about what that might look like.”

Pathology statistics are only available for Victoria, but previous data suggests the problem is likely to be nation-wide.

These figures are a timely reminder that Covid-19 is not the only health concern we face, and reinforce the need for timely medical care for a range of illnesses.


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