The World Health Organization warns of the impact of COVID-19 on cancer care


Dr. Andre Elbawi, from the Non-Communicable Diseases Department of the World Health Organization, said that more than a year ago since the start of the new Corona virus crisis, its impact on cancer care has been stark, as “cancer services have been partially or completely disrupted by the pandemic in 50 percent of Governments that provide these services. ”

“Delays in diagnosis are common. Interruptions to or abandonment of treatment have increased dramatically,” adding that this is likely to have an impact on the total number of cancer deaths in the coming years.

Pressure to provide care

Dr. Elbawy argues that healthcare professionals are under great pressure to provide services and that there is a significant decline in research and enrollment in clinical trials. “To put it simply, the consequences of the pandemic on cancer control efforts are profound.”

An unspecified number of countries “of all income levels” were affected, the doctor continued with the World Health Organization, although some rich countries have managed to cope with the effects of the pandemic, including the Netherlands, where special programs have been established to accelerate access to cancer diagnosis and treatment for those who appear They have symptoms.

Amid uncertainty about the Covid-19 vaccine that may be best suited to the health status of cancer patients, Dr. Elbaway said that data from ongoing clinical vaccine trials have not yet been published.

He said, “We appreciate that cancer patients are considered in these clinical trials because the evidence has shown that cancer patients are more susceptible to disease and death associated with Covid-19 due to their reduced immunity.”

An enormous economic burden

According to the World Health Organization, the economic burden of cancer on societies is huge and growing. In 2010, it was estimated to cost $ 1.16 trillion.

“In 2020, the number of people diagnosed with cancer worldwide reached 19.3 million, with the number of deaths increasing to 10 million,” said Dr. Elbawi.

According to the United Nations agency concerned with health, there were 2.3 million new breast cancer cases in 2020, accounting for nearly 12 percent of all cancer cases. It is also the leading cause of death from cancer among women worldwide.

Speaking via video technology in Geneva on the eve of World Cancer Day on Thursday, Dr. Elbawy pointed out that “for the first time, breast cancer is now the most common type of cancer worldwide, followed by lung cancer, which has historically been the main cause of most cancer cases, The colon is ranked third. ”

Worldwide repercussions

PAHO-WHO / Sebastián Oliel

A woman receives treatment for breast cancer in Mexico.

The WHO official warned that the cancer burden will rise further in the coming years for a variety of reasons, including population growth, as the number of new cases worldwide in 2040 is likely to increase by 47 percent from 2020.

The World Health Organization said in a statement that the largest increases will be in low- and middle-income countries, where diagnosis is more common in the later stages, with less access to good and affordable diagnosis and treatment.

The World Health Organization highlighted efforts to treat cervical cancer, noting that it is the fourth most common type of cancer among women worldwide, with an estimated 604,000 new cases in 2020, 700,000 injuries and 400,000 deaths expected in 2030.

People from poor countries are disproportionately affected, with nearly 90 percent of global deaths in 2020 due to cervical cancer occurring in low- and middle-income countries.

The importance of rapid diagnosis and treatment

Emphasizing the benefits of early diagnosis and appropriate treatment, the United Nations Health Agency has appealed for better availability of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine and for low-cost approaches to screening and treating cancer “before it develops into an invasive cancer”, as well as new approaches in surgical training .

“To advance on the road to eliminating cervical cancer, we must achieve three goals by 2030: 90 percent of girls receive a full HPV vaccination by the age of 15 years; and 70 percent of women undergo screening with a high-quality test at Reach 35 years of age, and undergo another test when they reach the age of 45; treating 90 percent of women with cervical cancer. ”

The World Health Organization stated that achieving these goals will lead to a decrease in cases by more than 70 percent by 2050 and help avoid 4.5 million deaths from cervical cancer.


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