New Survey Shows War in Ukraine Impacting Cancer Care in Neighbouring Countries

17 October 2022

The war in Ukraine has forced hundreds of cancer patients to seek care in neighbouring countries. A new survey reveals the impact this is having on facilities in those countries already struggling with resource limitations and the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.  

The online survey, conducted between 6 June and 10 July, targeted hospitals, clinics, and patient organisations in the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia.  

Results of the survey show that Poland, Moldova, and Czech Republic are caring for the greatest numbers of refugee cancer patients, most of whom (75%) are women. Given this prevalence, the most common types of cancer being treated are breast and cervical cancer, reported by 43% and 25% of the responding organisations, respectively. Importantly, most refugee patients were also presenting with late-stage cancer and without caregiver support. 

 From the 53 responses received to the survey from these organisations:  

  • 55% reported capacity issues  
  • 33% reported a shortage of oncology nurses 
  • 25% reported a shortage of medical oncologists  
  • 32% reported shortages of treatment, equipment, or medicine 

"Immediate concerns are many and include critical medicines shortages that affect not only Ukrainian patient outcomes but also broader patient populations within health systems that were in some cases under strain pre-invasion", commented Doug Pyle, Vice-President of the American Society of Clinical Oncology

The main challenges faced by responding organisations caring for Ukrainian cancer patients relate to medical records and language barriers:  

  • 53% reported problems with accessing medical records 
  • 42% reported a lack of medical records 
  • 38% reported difficulties communicating with caregivers or family members 

"This survey shows clearly the fundamental role played by the cancer community on the ground to meet patient needs in a such dramatic period – a role that frequently institutions could not play. The importance of this role must be fully recognised at the highest level of health policy-making by placing cancer organisations at the centre of the response to the crisis in the immediate period and adequately supporting them in the long term", highlighted Andreas Charalambous, President of the European Cancer Organisation. 

The survey was spearheaded by the European Cancer Organisation (ECO) and the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) through the ECO-ASCO Special Network: Impact of the War in Ukraine on Cancer together with its participating organisations. 

See the full report here.