More undiagnosed cancers but first wave diagnosis shortfall largely made up

Cancer cells. Photo:
Cancer cells. Photo:

Expected cancer diagnoses dropped by 4,000 last year compared to 2019, the latest figures from Dutch cancer centre IKNL show.

In 2019, 119,000 people were diagnosed with some form of the disease but the total fell to 115,000 last year as a direct result of the coronavirus crisis, the centre said.

People have been postponing visits to their family doctor while population screening programmes were temporarily stopped and regular healthcare scaled down, as the health service grappled with mounting coronavirus cases.

During the first coronavirus wave, between March and April, the number of diagnoses went down by 25% but, the IKNL said, when regular care was resumed during the summer the expected shortfall of diagnoses for many cancers was reduced to 3.5%.

Population-based screening for breast and colon cancer is still not up to speed, the centre said.

Melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer and lung cancer were among the most common cancers last year, with 6,800 and 14,000 cases respectively. The former is directly linked to excessive sun bathing and the use of tanning beds while most cases of lung cancer are smoking-related. The third most common cancer was breast cancer (13,200), followed by prostate cancer (12, 800) and colon cancer (11,700).

The IKNL said it is impossible to assess the impact of late diagnosis and its consequences at the moment, but will be reporting on this later.

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