More cancer diagnosed last year, as coronavirus delayed testing


Last year almost 124,000 people in the Netherlands were diagnosed with cancer, a rise of some 11,000 on 2020 but just 4,000 up on 2019, before coronavirus hit.

The increase in the number of cancer cases is usually around 2,000 a year and last year’s sharp rise is probably down to people delaying visits to their doctor and halts to the testing programme, according to Dutch cancer research institute IKNL.

Despite this, the late diagnosis for some patients does not appear to have been a problem, the IKNL said. There are, for example, no indications that more patients were told their cancer had spread when given the initial diagnosis.

‘It was feared that the decline in cancer diagnoses in the spring of 2020 would lead to a later diagnosis at a more unfavourable stage, when the disease had spread further into lymph nodes or other parts of the body,’ the centre said.

Nevertheless, the IKNL said it cannot rule out that a later diagnosis could have had serious consequences for a relatively small number of patients.

The IKNL said that the increase in patient numbers is in line with developments in recent years because as the population ages, more people are likely to be diagnosed with cancer.

One third of cancer patients in 2021 was over the age of 75 and just 6% were younger than 45.

Breast cancer was the most common form last year, with 15,700 new diagnoses, followed by a form of skin cancer. Some 14,700 people were diagnosed with lung cancer.

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