The Board of the European Cancer Organisation has agreed to launch a Special Network on the impact of COVID-19 on Cancer, on a “task and finish” basis to be co-chaired by Board members Mirjam Crul and Mark Lawler.
Based on reports received by the European Cancer Organisation from patient representatives and healthcare professionals across many countries, the harmful impacts to cancer services created by the COVID-19 lockdown measures can be evidenced across the cancer care continuum.
Added to all of this, are a range of very human impacts, such as terminally ill patients being even further in isolation from their friends and family, and the distress caused by burial and funeral restrictions. Not to be ignored either are the extra strains placed on cancer patients and their families due to the widespread personal economic pressures associated with the lockdown.
The European Cancer Organisation is conscious too that the morale and resilience of Europe’s health workforce overall cannot be taken for granted during this crisis, especially when faced with the potential personal risks raised by shortages of critical material, such as personal protective equipment (PPE).
The European Cancer Organisation calls for urgent sharing, and rapid uptake of, best practice on how best to meet the challenges of cancer service normalisation.
Such best practice collection and assessment should be conducted in cooperation with patients and professionals of the concerned areas. It should thereafter inform the creation of guidance to health systems on achieving the most prompt normalisation of cancer service in keeping with any ongoing COVID-19 related measures.
Mass communication campaigns should adequately inform the public and of course cancer patients of the critical need to continue visiting their healthcare professional in case of health complaint and to maintain treatment schedules as advised by their healthcare professional team.
In the longer term, a thorough and deliberative exercise in learning lessons from the January 2020-May 2020 period should be undertaken. This links to an identified need for timely and open debate on improving the structures for health system cooperation in Europe.