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Cancer screening and Covid19 – At what cost?

The Deputy CMO @ronan_glynn announced on @morningireland that he doesn’t see the resumption of cancer screening services in the ‘foreseeable future’ and advised anyone experiencing symptoms to consult their GP with any concerns.
There are a number of issues with this statement:

As far as I was aware the NPHET was established to oversee the health sector response to the #COVID19 emergency. As such, its remit is to provide direction, support and advice to Government and to the @HSELive.
I was not aware that the NPHET was responsible for making important decisions regarding the operation of our health service. I assumed that this was the remit of the HSE?

The mortality rate of Covid19 is less than 2%.
Cancer is THE biggest killer in Ireland.
One person dies from cancer EVERY HOUR in Ireland (Stats courtesy of the @irishcancersoc)

Delayed cancer diagnoses during this #COVID19 pandemic risks THOUSANDS of cases going undetected and untreated.
The impact of COVID19 on cancer care and treatment has been raised by leading oncologists such as Prof Seamus O’Reilly, @deirdreomahon14 @profjohncrown.

This is backed up by a number of articles that have appeared recently in

The Lancet
and in the European Journal of Surgical Oncology
In the @ejsotweets article, published last week, the impact of the ‘pausing’ of cancer screening services will put 'a considerable health & economic burden on national health systems'.

For patients who may have a delayed diagnosis, it makes for grim reading:
For colon cancer, the lifetime costs increase with later staging.
For cervical cancer, earlier detection avoids premature death but it also improves a woman's quality of life. Women who are detected earlier may still be able to enjoy a sex life and have a family
For breast cancer, women with screen-detected and smaller breast cancers can undergo breast conserving surgery and have better outcomes in body image and quality of life.

These are HUGE issues for those facing a cancer diagnosis.
These are also HUGE issues which will have far-reaching longer-term impacts than COVID19 for our health service and for society.

We urgently need a roadmap for restarting cancer screening services.

It is NOT good enough that this is not planned for the foreseeable future
that the burden of detection is left to our GPs.

I spoke to a number of GPs who told me, off the record, that there is no reason why GPs cannot get back to the business of referrals for screening now that Covid hubs are up and running around the country.
We are going to be ‘dealing with #COVID19 'for some considerable time to come’ according to @paulreiddublin at today's Dáil’s Covid19 committee meeting.

And so, it is more important than ever that the @HSELive resumes cancer screening services without delay.
If not, we WILL see an increase in delayed cancer diagnoses and poor outcomes for thousands of patients and 'decisions made under the duress of this pandemic will have grave consequences for cancer mortality in this country for years to come.'
I will be talking to @KatieGHannon on @drivetimerte tomorrow about this important issue. Let me know your #screeningstories

We NEED to open up a national conversation about this!
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