Credit: University of Twente
Cancer care has dramatically changed as a result of the measures taken during the COVID-19 pandemic: many patients have not been going to their GPs, or putting it off, and have been referred to the hospital later. Consequently, a quarter fewer cases of cancer have been diagnosed for several weeks, as found by the Netherlands Cancer Registry based on initial diagnoses in the PALGA pathology database. Dr. Avinash Dinmohamed of the Netherlands Comprehensive Cancer Organisation (IKNL in Dutch) and prof. Sabine Siesling of IKNL and the University of Twente (TechMed Centrum) and colleagues report this decline in diagnoses in the highly regarded scientific journal Lancet Oncology.
Prof. Siesling explains: ‘This data on cancer diagnoses in the Netherlands is one of the most unique in the world because of the nationwide coverage and the promptness with which it is made available. Based on it, we can respond rapidly to the decline in diagnoses. Other countries may be able to confirm their suspect feelings on effects of the crisis based on the Dutch trends and to take measures to ensure that regular care is resumed covering all parts of the care pathway.’
Sharing the Dutch data with care professionals and researchers throughout the world enables other countries that do not have up-to-date (national) records to respond to the decline in diagnoses. Thanks to the long-standing and close collaboration between IKNL and the national pathological archive PALGA, we gain a comprehension of the number of cancer diagnoses in the Netherlands only two weeks after samples of tumor material (e.g. biopsies) are taken. This system is one of the most unique in the world. The data shows that diagnoses have declined, and the government has, therefore, called upon people to go to their GP if they have complaints. It has also prompted hospitals and GPs to make strenuous efforts to resume non-COVID-related care and, more specifically, cancer care. Most recent data show an increase in cancer diagnosis for skin and breast cancer, but for most other cancer types no increase can be seen.