October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a worldwide annual campaign that highlights the importance of breast cancer awareness, education and research. One of the consequences of COVID-19 is delays in health checks and preventative screening for cancer, which could result in a huge number of additional cancer casualties, if not managed correctly, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.
Adam Pearson, Pharma Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “It has become increasingly clear that millions of individuals around the world have missed potentially lifesaving preventative cancer screening and breast cancer is one such example. Recent statistics from the UK-based charity Breast Cancer Now estimate that approximately one million women in the UK have missed their mammograms due to breast screening programs being paused in March 2020. Early detection is critical to preventing women dying from breast cancer, so delays will have a long-lasting impact on patients developing breast cancer in 2020. This accounts for thousands of women across the globe.”
While the urgent measures taken at the height of the pandemic to pause routine procedures – and designed not to overwhelm healthcare services – were a sensible safeguard, cancer patients cannot afford a second pause on preventative screening. The threats of a second wave of COVID-19 are very real, the changing demographics of those infected, increased testing rates, and more effective treatment of the disease has led to decreasing rates of hospitalization and mortality. For this reason, cancer screening needs to become a priority again. Governments need to ensure that the appropriate infrastructure is ready for an anticipated influx of demand for imaging and diagnostics, and ensure the restoration of preventative screening back to pre-pandemic levels.
Pearson concludes: “While this time of year is often a moment to reflect on the significant progress in the treatment of breast cancer while recognizing there is still a lot to do to improve breast cancer patient outcomes, 2020 is different. COVID-19 is the biggest threat that breast cancer treatment has faced in decades. It is pivotal that the hard work continues, to ensure high rates of preventative screening are restored to pre-pandemic levels, and therefore maintain a central component of the improvement for breast cancer patient outcomes in the last 30 years.”