Cancer screening rates drop during lockdown

Sep 30, 2021
Extended lockdowns have seen a reduction in cancer screenings and tests. Source: Getty

A major report by Cancer Australia has revealed an alarming reduction in cancer testing last year. A direct result of the Covid-19 pandemic and ongoing lockdowns, the reduction is sparking fear of cancers going undiagnosed with poorer patient outcomes.

Researchers examined data from the Medical Benefits Schedule (MBS), between January and December 2020, and found close to 164,000 fewer cancer-related diagnostic procedures were performed last year than expected.

When compared to the previous three years, the most significant drops were in tests for liver, lung, and colorectal cancer.

Cancer surgeries and non-surgical therapeutic procedures, such as chemotherapy, also saw a decline with 14,600 fewer services than expected.

Director of radiation oncology and medical services at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, Chris Milross told The Sydney Morning Herald that later diagnosis could lead to poorer treatment outcomes.

“This hiatus in cancer tests could mean our fears of seeing people too late will become a reality,” he said.

“It will mean a greater likelihood of being diagnosed with more advanced disease, the cancer will be harder to treat, or worse still, not possible to cure.”

Early intervention has been proven crucial when treating cancer, research has found early screening for bowel cancer can significantly reduce fatalities.

Cancer Australia CEO, Dorothy Keefe has previously mentioned the importance of early intervention when it comes to cancer diagnosis.

“I would remind everyone it’s really important to know your body and know the symptoms to look out for. Most symptoms are due to something less serious than cancer, but if it is cancer, the earlier it is found, the better. Our Cancer Won’t Wait video campaign encourages you to continue with your health appointments and see a doctor if there are changes to your body that are unusual for you,” she said.

Concerns over what Covid-19 means for essential health services, such as cancer treatment, has been ongoing since the pandemic began.

When the pandemic began, many health services bolstered their commitment to assisting patients and ensuring services continued, including Cancer Council Queensland CEO, Ms Chris McMillan, who said the charity was committed to its mission of reducing the burden of cancer on Queenslanders.

“Cancer doesn’t stop, so neither do we,” she said.

“We are focused on doing what we can to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in Queensland and will take all the necessary steps we can to look after those impacted by cancer.

Cancer Australia estimates that 150,782 cases of cancer will be diagnosed in Australia this year.

Early intervention when it comes to seeing cancer treatment, see your doctor today.


IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

Have ongoing lockdowns and Covid-19 made you hesitant to visit your doctor?

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