Australian cancer tests, operations dropped up to 50 percent amid pandemic

Breast Cancer
Breast Cancer

Australia’s peak cancer body Cancer Australia reported a significant drop in tests and treatments for the diseases amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

It said that diagnose on three of the most common cancers in Australia fell substantially between March and April when the COVID-19 infections in Australia hit their first peak.

Non-surgical treatments for skin cancers fell by 30 percent.

Dorothy Keefe, the chief executive of Cancer Australia, said it was concerning that cancers that were not diagnosed during lockdown could be detected later and “may not be as treatable.”

“There was a 30 to 50-percent drop in tests and operations,” she said, according to the report of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) on Monday.

“We would expect the cancers that haven’t been diagnosed in the early part of the year will be diagnosed either later this year or early next year, and they will probably be slightly more severe cancers than they would have been had they been diagnosed earlier.

“It’s likely the second wave of COVID-19 in Victoria might lead to more delays in cancer diagnoses, although it is too early for the data to show that yet.

“It is concerning from a public health perspective for Australia.”

In Victoria, the state hardest-hit by the pandemic with more than 85 percent of Australia’s deaths, the Cancer Council Victoria has recorded a 13-percent drop in the number of tumours diagnosed compared to 2019.

Keefe said strict coronavirus restrictions were “absolutely vital” but were having unintended consequences.

“As the months go by and as the pandemic enters different stages we have to think to ourselves: what about the other health impacts of the lockdowns and of staying at home? And at some point we have to say: you really do need to go to the doctor to have these symptoms looked at,” she said.

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